The Polish cyclist and Slovakian clashed regularly in the amateur ranks and more often than not Kwiatkowski came out on top like he did today on Italy’s seaside.
“I might be in a better position than the others,” Kwiatkowski said of their long-running rivalry. “I truly believe Sagan is beatable, maybe many in the bunch think that he’s front another planet, that’s for sure.
“I know that I’m able to follow him, like on the Poggio today. And when we talk about tactics before the race, we don’t think about who’s going follow when Sagan goes, we just know that I can follow him.
“In the junior ranks, we were at a very similar level, and so I had many more chances to race with him than any of the other guys. I truly believe that he is beatable. You just have to believe in that.”
Watch: Milan-San Remo 2017 highlights
Kwiatkowski believed and it showed today. He followed Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) when he moved to chase Sagan up the Poggio. The trio sped down from the hillside down and to the seaside, but Kwiatkowski refused to work because he had Elia Viviani behind, and Alaphilippe did the same since Fernando Gaviria was waiting in the wings.
“For sure I thought Sagan was beatable. I always believe I can beat anyone if you do things right,” added Kwiatkowski.
“I was really tying to focus on the sprint. For sure, I was gambling a bit with Sagan’s mind. He has a lot of pressure on him – wearing the rainbow jersey puts you in a hard situation. I know.”
Once on the flat final two kilometres, heading towards Via Roma, Kwiatkowski sat on Sagan’s wheel, letting a small gap open in the final few hundred metres.
“I was 100% sure that Sagan has better acceleration and he’s just a better sprinter, but he’s beatable. He looked behind and I knew that when he saw the gap he’d start the sprint first,” he continued.
“On the track, if you are directly behind the wheel, you will lose a couple of metres when a faster guy starts a sprint. I was trying to stay relaxed and have enough space to get a higher speed before the finish line.”
With the win added to Wout Poels’s in Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year, Kwiatkowski brought home Sky’s second Monument. Meanwhile Sagan placed second for the 78th time in his career.