Michal Kwiatkowski continued his excellent start to the season with an impressive victory in the Strade Bianche.
The young Pole arrived into the finish in Sienna with Peter Sagan after the pair broke clear together with around 23 kilometres to go. Few doubted that Sagan possessed the superior sprint, but the steep incline within the final kilometre provided Kwiatkowski with the platform to attack the Slovakian and finish a comfortable nineteen seconds ahead.
By finishing second again, Sagan’s 2014 classics campaign begins in much the same way his 2013 spring played out; forever the bridesmaid, never the bride. His second at last year’s Strade Bianche will have been much more satisfying however, as that time his teammate Moreno Moser was up the road to win.
This year, it was Sagan who instigated the race winning move with a breathtaking counter-attack after an earlier attack had been reeled in. Kwiatkowski was the only rider to follow the move, and the pair made their superiority clear by extending their gap to over a minute ahead of the rest of the favourites.
Perhaps the only rider with comparative strength was Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who attacked in the final kilometre to finish third ahead of Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek).
Het Nieuwsblad winner Ian Stannard animated the race early on with an attack on the dirt roads with 40-odd kilometres to go, heading a group of ten strong looking riders. The race soon came back together, however, and the Briton didn’t have the legs to follow the race winning move.
Cancellara, meanwhile, didn’t look quite at his best today, but will likely commence battle with Sagan come Milan San-Remo later this month. Based on today, however, the pair would be wise to fear the emerging talent of Kwiatkowski.
RESULT: 2014 Strade Bianche
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) OmegaPharma-Quickstep 5-20.33
2. Peter Sagan (SVK) Cannondale +18 sec
3. Alejandro Valverde (SPA) Movistar +35 sec
4 .Damiano Cunego (ITA) Lampre-Merida +39 sec
5. Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Tinkoff Saxo +40 sec
6. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) Trek Factory Racing +58 sec
7. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC Racing +1:42 min
8. Warren Barguil (FRA) Giant Shimano +2:01 min
9. Wouter Poels (NED) OmegaPharma-Quickstep +2:10 min
10. Simon Geschke (GER) Giant Shimano +2:50 min
Host of Grand Tour champions and Classics stars line up for eighth edition of Strade Bianche in Italy on Saturday,