08-Mar-2014: Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Michal Kwiatkowski waited for the perfect moment at the Italian Classic, 197km Strade Bianche, on Saturday. Peter Sagan (Cannondale ProCycling) launched an impressive attack with less than 23km to go, but with five OPQS riders well positioned in a lead group and Kwiatkowski feeling strong, he bridged to the attacking Slovak rider. Matteo Trentin attacked earlier, keeping his teammates Rigoberto Uran, Wout Poels, Kwiatkowski, and Michal Golas fresh approaching the final kilometers. This strong team representation in the lead group set up Kwiatkowski perfectly.
Sagan and Kwiatkowski rode away from the field, despite a strong chasing group forming behind them including Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team). Approaching the final few hundred meters, Kwiatkowski sat on Sagans wheel as the road grew steep. Then, countering an acceleration of Sagan, the Polish Champion launched. He dropped Sagan immediately on the final climb and powered on to win solo.
Kwiatkowski’s victory is the 14th for OPQS, in three disciplines, in 2014.
“When I came around the final corner to the finish line in Piazza del Campo, it was absolutely beautiful,” Kwiatkowski said. “I did recon yesterday of the finish in Siena, and it was amazing then as well. But with fans and spectators around, it’s even better. It’s something special. I know Sagan has much more experience on a final like that in the big races. I was watching even the chainring he was using to make sure I didn’t make any stupid mistakes. I was actually surprised speeding up on the last climb, he didn’t wait until the sprint. He started slowing down a little bit and I saw that he was really suffering. So I went full gas until the end and that’s how it was won. I’m pretty surprised as this is probably my best, most emotional victory so far. I had so much support from the team, from everyone. In one of the longest sections at 80km to go or so I had a flat tire. I was in the front and it was a nervous moment. I was thinking I really need to be in the front. But Peta stopped with me, gave me his wheel, Mark took me back to the front and I caught the front at 3km left in a 10km section. It was a nervous moment because about half of the peloton was already dropped and with a strong crosswind it was really dangerous. I could lose the race there. But I made it back thanks to my teammates. At 50km to go, the race got going and we had five guys in the front. We could play our cards. We started to pull as we had 22 guys in the front. But, Matteo attacked and it was a good move as we didn’t have to work anymore. I was just waiting then for the move of a guy like Cancellara or Sagan. Then when we caught up to Matteo, on the little climb, Sagan attacked from the back so he had speed on the climb. I was waiting for the move of Cancellara more as he was in the front. I was just behind him when Sagan went. I went behind him and we worked all the way to the last kilometer. I’m really thankful to my team for the support today, I can’t say it enough. Now, at Tirreno-Adriatico, I want to do my best again. We will see what happens. I finished 4th last year. We will have some good guys with Cavendish, Martin, Uran. We have a good lineup. We will see how it goes. The secret of this team is that we are always motivated. It keeps the morale high. As for me, my focus has been on the GC of races this year. Tirreno-Adriatico will be one of the best checks for how I am doing this year.”
Photo: (c) Tim De Waele