Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) claimed his second career Strade Bianche crown when he soloed to victory after 175km in Siena, Italy.

Rome (AFP) – Michal Kwiatkowski gave the under-fire Team Sky a welcome boost on Saturday by winning the Strade Bianche one-day race for the second time in Tuscany.

Beleaguered Sky have been on the defensive as a UK anti-doping probe has exposed some questionable practices relating to their medical record-keeping.

But Poland’s Kwiatkowski gave Sky something to cheer as he escaped on his own 15km from the end of the 175km race that starts and finishes in Siena.

He held on to win by 15 seconds ahead of a group of three chasers, with Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) taking second and his fellow Belgian Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) in third.

“We started to play a game after the Sante Marie section,” he explained. “I didn’t feel so good there, but the cooperation wasn’t so strong among the group, so I thought the best thing was to go at my own pace.

“I didn’t think they’d cooperate well behind me and I could choose my own pace, my own tempo, and go to the finish. I’m so happy that it worked out.”

The last time Kwiatkowski won the prestigious Strade Bianche, in 2014, he went on to win the world title later in the year.

2017 has started strongly for Kwiatkowski with a fine ride to second overall at the Volta ao Algarve and now a win at Strade Bianche, but 2016 was tough for the 26-year-old and he was quick to thank the team for the trust placed in him after his epic ride.

“I was thinking about last year when I crossed the line, and I feel so satisfied,” he said. “The team has put big trust in to me and all the hard work I’ve done in preparation for this season has paid off.

“It’s the second victory at Strade Bianche in my career – it’s just amazing. Coming into the final stages alone was an incredible feeling.”

Pre-race favourite and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne winner Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was forced to abandon the race due to illness.

This year was the first time Strade Bianche is listed on the WorldTour calendar.