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Kwiatkowski: ‘When you have a few cards to play, you can go for the win’

SANREMO, Italy (VN) — In Italy’s famous casino city, Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) played the better numbers and refused to gamble in Milano-Sanremo.

After 291 kilometers, he edged ahead of double world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in Sanremo. He had the secure hand thanks to Sky’s sprinter Elia Viviani in the chase group, where Sagan risked it all on a Poggio attack.

“It’s all about winning, not being second or third,” said the 26-year-old Polish cyclist.

“We came here with two leaders, and I’m always happy to have that excuse of having a good sprinter behind. I could wait and not go on the front.”

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step) followed Sagan’s attack at 6.3 kilometers from the finish. Kwiatkowski latched on to Alaphilippe, and they caught Sagan before the top of the Poggio at 5.4 kilometers out.

“Alaphilippe was the same, waiting for what Sagan was going to do. I don’t think Sagan was thinking about Sam Bennett [team Bora], he was making his effort,” added Kwiatkowski.

“That’s the thing in the classics when you have a few cards to play, you can go for the win.”

The double world champion strikes fear in many with his sprints and attacks. It helped him collect 92 wins — including the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2016 — but also left him with 78 second places.

As a result, rivals aim for his weak point: his team. Sky did so today and on Monday, it was Quick-Step in Tirreno-Adriatico.

Sagan already won two stages in the Italian stage race leading up to Milano-Sanremo, but was hungry for more. Quick-Step’s Niki Terpstra launched on a climb leading to the finish in Civitanova Marche. Sagan chased and in doing so, he used energy that he needed against Quick-Step’s Fernando Gaviria when the race re-grouped for a sprint. Sagan placed second in what was an ominous sign for Milano-Sanremo.

“Luckily the best doesn’t always win and unluckily, sometimes the best doesn’t win,” Boonen said of Sagan during the week.

“It’s going to be very difficult for him to win in the classics. Why? Because he’s the best and he doesn’t have the strongest team.”

Quick-Step’s Philippe Gilbert closed down a move by Tony Gallopin (Lotto) after the Cipressa and Boonen rode for Alaphilippe leading to Sagan’s Poggio attack.

Sagan had Cesare Benedetti and Maciej Bodnar lifting some heavy weight for him, but he lacked playing piece when the trio began its mind-games in Sanremo.

“It was brilliant,” Sky’s Luke Rowe said. “We led into the Cipressa and the Poggio for Kwiatkowski. Viviani gave him the freedom to follow attacks, and if that didn’t work, Viviani could sprint.”

“It’s better to have two cards to play,” continued Kwiatkowski. “Elia was impressive today on the Cipressa and Poggio. And we talked a lot on the radio, and he told me I had to follow any move. He gave me the wake up call.”

The new German WorldTour team Bora-Hansgrohe left the casino town with a bitter-sweet taste. Its best hand placed second, but left a rainbow over the Poggio hilltop town.

“We wanted to win,” General Manager Ralph Denk said. “Peter didn’t want to just win, though, he wanted to paint a masterpiece doing so. I think we saw that with the world champion attacking on the Poggio and fighting to Sanremo.”

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