The Team Sky man got the drop on world champion Peter Sagan to make it two in two years for the British team

Michal Kwiatkowski made it two wins in two years for Team Sky at the E3 Harelbeke, after he got the drop on breakaway companion Peter Sagan in the final kilometre of the Belgian Classic.

The pair had made a gap on the race’s final climb on an elite front group which contained the likes of Tom Boonen, his Etixx-Quick Step teammates Niki Terpstra, Zdenek Stybar and Matteo Trentin, as well as Ian Stannard (Sky) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo).

World champion Sagan accelerated on the Karnemelkbeekstraat with around 31km remaining, with only Kwiatkowski able to stay with him.

The pair quickly stretched out a gap of around 30 seconds on the elite chasing group, and that gap continued to hold until the final few kilometres, until Boonen took up the chase in earnest after a huge amount of work by Terpstra.

But they could only narrow it down to within 10-15 seconds, and the leading duo looked set to fight it out as they rode under the flamme rouge.

Former world champion Kwiatkowski took up the advantageous position of  sitting behind the man in the rainbow bands, taking the opportunity to make a long-range sprint for the line with just under 500m to go after what looked like a lapse in concentration from Sagan.

Peter Sagan in the 2016 E3 Harelbeke

Peter Sagan in the 2016 E3 Harelbeke

Their was nothing he could do to catch the Pole though after he’d made his move, with Kwiatkowski crossing the line to take Sky’s second consecutive win in the E3 Harelbeke after Geraint Thomas’s victory in 2015.

Ian Stannard rounded off a great day for British squad, who also took victory through Wout Poels at the Volta a Catalunya, by sprinting to third place from the chasing group ahead of Cancellara.

Ian Stannard in the 2016 E3 Harelbeke

Ian Stannard in the 2016 E3 Harelbeke

The action had really kicked off on the Taaienberg, around 70km from the finish, with Boonen putting in enough of an effort to draw out an elite group which began to chase the day’s original breakaway.

Initially, five-time E3 winner Boonen had caused two groups to form behind the break up the road, with his Etixx dominated group second on the course and a chasing group led by Sky’s Luke Rowe and Stannard chasing on behind.


Watch: Servais Knaven talks Kwiatkowski’s E3 win


Cancellara had made it into that first group, but rapidly saw his chances of a fourth win at E3 slip away as he suffered a mechanical. With team cars some way back stuck behind the peloton, the Swiss had to simply wait on the side of the road for a replacement bike.

Once he was back on two wheels, with 67km remaining, Cancellara utilised his teammates to help pace him back to the to Boonen group which was now well over a minute up the road.

E3 Harelbeke

Fabian Cancellara at the 2016 E3 Harelbeke (Watson)

Sky had managed to catch the Boonen group in the meantime, with the breakaway brought back, and by the time they reached the top of the Oude Kwaremont with 37km to go, Cancellara had completed a mammoth effort to make it back to the front of the race.

And while he had his teammate Jasper Stuyven for company, there was little Cancellara was able to do to help bring back the duo that then went out on the attack.

In the end he sprinted to fourth place in the final E3 Harelbeke of his career, but all the spoils went to Kwiatkowski, who took his first win of the season and his first win in Team Sky colours.

Peter Sagan, Michal Kwiatkowski and Ian Stannard on the podium after the 2016 E3 Harelbeke

Peter Sagan, Michal Kwiatkowski and Ian Stannard on the podium after the 2016 E3 Harelbeke

Results

E3 Harelbeke 2016 (206km)

1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, in 4-55-18
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff, at 3 secs
3. Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky, at 11 secs
4. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Trek-Segafredo
5. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6. Lars Boom (Ned) Astana
7. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
8. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo
9. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Bel) BMC
10. Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC, all same time

  • poisonjunction

    The podium places might have been totally different had either rider sat up. Both knew there was a slim chance of staying away, all credit to Sagan for sticking to the job to the end without playing around, whilst knowing in his legs he was on a hiding – you don’t ride ensemble for as long as these two did if you don’t get to know your man. It will be interesting to see if/ how a Sky/ Sagan relationship developes.

  • what a perfect race by Kwiatkowski – timing and execution (and work and conservation rate with Sagan) – just spot on! Why isn’t he racing tomorrow?

  • I think its all Donald Trump’s fault

  • Chumply Chummunderson

    How long before the conspiracy theorists come up with a ‘Sagan-Far Eastern Gambling Syndicate’ race fixing theory?

  • blemcooper

    Time for the buzz cut Sagan! Hmm…maybe he’s saving the anti-Samson treatment for De Ronde.

  • llos25

    It was a Sky day for once .

  • eminusx

    gutted for Sagan, but again, the guy is up there in every race, top two or three, incredible
    a lapse of concentration in the dying seconds today but after that effort its no surprise. . .coming 2nd to last years world champion is nothing to be ashamed of.