Belief key as Team Sky's Michal Kwiatkowski wins E3 Harelbeke

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Belief and team work key as Michal Kwiatkowski wins E3 Harelbeke

Pole beats world champion Peter Sagan as Team Sky win cobbled Classic for second consecutive year

Michal Kwiatkowski says belief and team work were the key ingredients in his E3 Harelbeke victory, after beating Peter Sagan in a two-up sprint.

The Team Sky man secured his first win since switching from Etixx-QuickStep, to consign Sagan to second place – the sixth time this season the Slovakian has finished there.

And with Ian Stannard rounding off the podium to cap a great day for the British WorldTour team, Kwiatkowski was quick to pay tribute to his team-mates.

Michal Kwiatkowski celebrates after beating Peter Sagan to victory at E Harelbeke (pic: Sirotti)

“I was really motivated today and I did my best,” he told the team website. “I was perfectly protected by my team-mates, Ian Stannard was always there for me and then Peter and I worked together well.

“We were in a similar position at Strade Bianche two years ago and that brought back memories for me. I knew I had really good legs today and I had to go for the win, there was no other option.

“Me and Peter did a really good race. I knew I had to go with a long sprint because his kick is bigger than mine, and that worked out. I didn’t look back and went full gas to the finish.

“The team rode amazingly today – all eight guys – and I felt so protected as a leader. I was really happy that I could finish it off so well.”

Kwiatkowski may be better known for his results in the Ardennes Classics, but he laid down a marker for the cobbled Classics after breaking clear with Sagan on Karnemelkbeekstraat.

Sagan instigated the move, but the two men worked well together to hold a short, but decisive lead all the way to the final straight.

And in a race Team Sky also won in 2015, through Geraint Thomas, it was the Pole who prevailed – accelerating with almost 300m to ride to ensure Sagan’s sprinting prowess did not come to the fore.

Earlier, plenty of attacking and counter-attacking had made for an enthralling race, with a mechanical costing Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) when he was in a small front group.

Spartacus fought back despite having to wait several minutes for his team car, but the action continued apace – Sagan and Kwiatkowski having actually been missing from that selection.

They had returned to the front on Oude Kwaremont, where Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) set the pace before Sagan counter-attacked to form a three-man leading trio – Lars Boom the third man.

Ian Stannard was also on the podium to cap a fine day for Team Sky (pic: Sirotti)

Kwiatkowski and Stannard also latched on, while Cancellara finally reattached himself with the front men with little more than 30km to race.

Just as he did, however, Sagan forged clear again with Kwiatkowski on his wheel and the attack proved decisive.

“You have to believe you can win,” he added. “I struggled to hold Peter’s wheel at first but quickly got into a rhythm.

“It’s not an easy thing to beat a world champion but I’m really thankful to him. We worked well together at the front trying to protect the gap to the chasers.”

E3-Harelbeke 2016: result

1) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Team Sky – 4.49.34hrs
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff +4”
3) Ian Stannard (GBR) – Team Sky +11”
4) Fabian Cancellara (SUI) – Trek-Segafredo – ST
5) Jasper Stuyven (BEL) – Trek-Segafredo
6) Lars Boom (NED) – Astana
7) Tiesj Benoot (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal
8) Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) – LottoNL-Jumbo
9) Jempy Drucker (LUX) – BMC Racing
10) Daniel Oss (ITA) – BMC Racing

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