Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) grabbed a hard fought win at E3 Harelbeke, in a decisive break and final sprint with Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).

In threatening spring form, Kwiatkowski finally claimed his first Sky win, timing the sprint perfectly with 200m to go, with Sagan left behind to again ask questions. 

Sky team-mate Ian Stannard rounded out the podium, topping off a successful day for the team after Poels' Stage 5 win at the Volta a Catalunya. 

The dynamic Kwiatkowski and 2014 winner, Sagan attacked the main group with 31km to go, collaborating well to gain as much as a 36-second lead.

An early break formed with eight riders gaining a maximum lead of six minutes which dropped immediately once Trek-Segafredo drove the peloton hard to the Taaienberg with 74kms to go.

A significant split finally formed in the 206.4km cobbled Flemish classic when a large group of favorites attacked on the Taaienberg. Containing the likes of Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal), Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo), and Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quickstep) the move looked dangerous even with around 70 kilometres remaining.

Cancellara however suffered a mechanical at the bottom of the Boigneberg and waited over a minute for assistance. An extraordinary effort by his team-mates brought him back to the group before Sagan and Kwiatowski launched their bold move on the Karnemelkbeekstraat

"I was really motivated today and I did my best. I was perfectly protected by my team-mates, Ian Stannard was always there for me and then me and Peter worked together well," Kwiatkowski said. 

"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."

 

Saturday 26 Mar 2016

 

Sagan's reaction to second despite otherwise perfect racing

“I did my attack and we were working together, but in the finish I was without energy and he was stronger than me. I think I did a lot of work in the finale and was without legs.

"I’m happy with how it went though – I didn’t crash, I was in the front. I attacked to try to break the group after Cancellara came back to see what happened. Cycling is simple sometimes.

"I've got a fast finish but after a race like this, everything is different. In the last two kilometres the group was closing behind and I pulled a lot on the front and in the finale I ran out of legs.”

According to other reports, it may not have been two minutes, but Cancellara still came back to finish fourth.