Team Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski gave the team its second consecutive win in E3 Harelbeke on Friday in Belgium, one year after Geraint Thomas. In doing so, he shut down escape companion and world champion Peter Sagan, who still is chasing his first win in the rainbow jersey.
The 2014 champion says that he knows how hard it is to win in the coveted bands of the world champion.
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The two escaped at 31km remaining on one of the few asphalt climbs, but the one with the longest name: the Karnemelkbeekstraat. Sky teammate Ian Stannard marked the favourites behind and the gap went up to a half-minute.
Kwiatkowski marked Sagan in the last kilometres and then shot ahead in the final 200 metres to win in the small Flemish city.
“I know the feeling of Peter, I know how it is to wear the world champion jersey as well,” Kwiatkowski said. “It’s very difficult. I think both of us did a really good race.”
Sagan has yet to celebrate victory in the rainbow jersey that he earned in Richmond, Virginia, last September. Kwiatkowski had his first as world champion in the Amstel Gold Race last April when he still raced for Etixx–Quick Step. Today, the Pole used E3 Harelbeke to win his first in Sky’s black colours.
Watch: Servais Knaven talks Kwiatkowski’s E3 win
Sky signed Kwiatkowski over the winter. He fills the gap of Thomas, who is focusing more on stage racing, and Richie Porte, who won three week-long stage races last year before joining BMC Racing.
“I feel very good on Team Sky. To be one of the leaders for the cobbled classics is an amazing feeling to be so protected. It is just more than I was dreaming about.
“In the first race on the cobbles this year, winning E3 is amazing. Especially riding for Team Sky, to get the first win for them and myself in the team,” Kwiatkowski added.
“I knew I had to go with the long sprint because Peter seems to have a bigger punch than me. So I tried to go more than 300 metres before the finish and that worked out. I didn’t look back. I just went full gas to the finish.”
Sagan’s bike and helmet with their glitter paint jobs shined more than he wanted to over the 206km race that is viewed as a litmus test for next week’s Tour of Flanders. Last year, he had found himself in a similar situation, when Thomas left him and Zdenek Stybar (Etixx–Quick Step) behind.
“You know the race is never like you expect,” Sagan said.
“I was with Michal on the front. In the last two kilometres on the radio, I heard, ‘you have to pull, you have to pull’ because they were coming from the back, and I think I did a lot of work in the final and I was just without legs in the final. I worked more I think [than I should’ve] and I was just without energy.
“Flanders? I am preparing all the year for the Tour of Flanders. These are the goals for the start of the season. After Flanders and Roubaix, it’s the second part of the season and there are other objectives. Milan-San Remo, here, Flanders and Roubaix are the biggest races now.”