Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) denied Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) his first win in the rainbow jersey at the E3 Harelbeke on Friday by out-sprinting the world champion after the duo escaped a select lead group of favourites with 30km remaining.
With Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) chasing furiously behind, Kwiatkowski powered away from Sagan in the final 200 metres to take the victory. Ian Stannard rounded out the podium with third place for Team Sky.
Cancellara was slowed by a mechanical but made his way back to the lead group of about 13 riders with just over 30km to go after a lengthy chase. Moments after he regained contact, the winning move came with Kwiatkowski first to accelerate on the Karnemelkbeekstraat. Sagan made it up to the Team Sky rider with Matteo Trentin furiously chasing in order to make sure Etixx-Quickstep were represented. However the Italian wilted, allowing the last two world champions to establish a lead that peaked at just under 40 seconds.
Etixx-QuickStep, who had numbers throughout the race, set upon chasing the leaders but their efforts proved in vain. A late charge from Tom Boonen almost saw the leading pair caught in the closing kilometre but as Sagan led the duo toward the line, Kwiatkowski launched his attack and quickly opened an insurmountable gap.
Sagan, weary from his earlier efforts in the break, simply had no answer and barely lifted himself out of the saddle as the Pole made sure of his escape.
“I did my best, I was perfectly protected by my teammates,” Kwiatkowski said at the finish. “Ian Stannard was in the front and we could play very well. Actually, we worked well with Peter – as we did three years ago in Strade Bianche. Honestly, I knew I had really good legs today. I had to go for the win – there was no other option.
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