Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) sent a reminder to world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) ahead of Milan-San Remo this Saturday, that sometimes it is better be the smartest and not the strongest in the race.
Sagan, having narrowly placed second in San Remo last year, on Tuesday criticised Kwiatkowski's style of racing leading to his victory, saying, "If I win like Kwiatkowski, I'm not happy."
The Polish former world champion paused when he heard Sagan's comments read to him in a post Tirreno-Adriatico press conference and then reminded his rival it takes a mix of skills to win.
"I know how it is to race with the rainbow jersey. It's part of the game that he says such a thing," Kwiatkowski said.
"A lot of guys put him under pressure, and they put me under pressure. It's part of the game.
"He's playing mind games? Of course, that's how it is. Sometimes you don't win the race by being the strongest, by you need to be the smartest."
Sagan last year attacked on the Poggio climb and led down hairpins to the seaside road towards San Remo. He looked at his two companions, but only Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step) would contribute. Kwiatkowski waited for the kill.
"I prefer to make some show for people and how it's going, it's going," Sagan said. "It doesn't matter if you win or lose."
Kwiatkowski, who won the Tirreno-Adriatico overall after Tuesday's final time trial, added, "In 2016, when they were chasing me back on the Poggio, no one was really complaining. At the end of the day, it matters if you made the right move."
Many name Sagan again the favourite for Milan-San Remo. He finished second already in 2013 and several times top 10. Kwiatkowski, perhaps playing mind games, agreed.
"It's the one and only Peter, he's the biggest favourite from my point of view. Who else? There are always a bunch of guys, you can name 20. When someone is winning, it's no surprise," he added.
"The biggest one is Peter. I saw him yesterday, and how he came back for the sprint [after nearly crashing]. He's the biggest one. I'm just going to name him.
"I'd prefer to race there without any pressure our without being the favourite. It's how you race in the last 100km, the bottom of the Cipressa and Poggio, that's where I'll see for myself
"I want to be in the game again. I was in the game the last two years, I was able to win last year which was amazing. I was able to have a go on the Poggio.
"You need a lot of luck in Milan-San Remo, that's the type of race you deal with. You race for 240km and it can all be gone after a stupid Poggio crash or something.
"I'm confident with my shape before this race, and let's hope the team will be there as they supported me so well last year. I think I'll have the same support this year."
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