Peter Sagan is widely considered the future king of the Classics but Michal Kwiatkowski gave his former rival from the junior ranks a lesson in racing at the Strade Bianche and showed that he could go on to be one of the best riders of his generation.
Kwiatkowski is more reserved and lacks Sagan's natural self belief but he is equally ambitious.
"We raced like today in the past, as juniors, we always escaped from the others and it’s a fantastic feeling to be on the same level as him," Kwiatkowski said in the post-race press conference.
"I've got some good memories from our juniors days. "We took two different paths and he arrived at the top faster than me but I did my own work and followed my own way."
"I'm a little surprised to go so well. My big goals are the Ardennes Classics and Tirreno-Adriatico because I was fourth last year. I'm still only 23, so I know I have to focus on my training and see what happens. I'd love to arrive at the top one day but I know you have to work a lot to get there."
Kwiatkowski first earned a leadership role at Omega Pharma-Quick Step with second place at the 2012 Tour of Poland. He finished fourth at the 2013 Tirreno-Adriatico, 11th in the Tour de France (third in the best young rider's competition behind Quintana and Talansky) and ended the season as part of the Omega Pharma-Quick team that won the world TTT title in Florence.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step again used their strength in depth to dominate Strade Bianche, with Kwiatkowski going after Sagan, knowing that his teammates would protect his attack.
"We are always motivated to win and that's the thing. We don’t use races for training," Kwiatkowski said when asked why Omega Pharma-Quick Step is dominating the races this season.
"We all came here to win, that was the goal. I have to thank the team today. Mark (Cavendish), Ale (Petacchi) and Mark Renshaw all helped me when I had a big crash early on and when I flatted on the sixth sector of dirt road. I got a wheel from Peta and Cav took me to the front. I was nervous but after that sector, there were five of us in front. We did a perfect race: we pulled, then we decided to play a bit and so Matteo (Trentin) attacked so we didn’t have to work. Then I went with Sagan. I'm really thankful to the team. Without them, I wouldn't have today."
Kwiatkowski revealed that he started cycling when he was just ten years old, inspired by his older brother in the village of Chelmza. He clashed with Sagan as a junior and has a similar natural instinct for choosing the right race tactic. His cool nerve and powerful late attack to drop Sagan and win alone in the centre of Siena was impressive.
"He's got more experience on this kind of finish and I didn't think I'd win," he admitted.
"I controlled him in the finale. I knew the finish because I saw it yesterday but I didn’t think I'd go so well. I waited for his move but then he didn’t go, so I attacked, I knew I couldn't have waited for the sprint, otherwise I'd have lost."
Kwiatkowski and Omega Pharma-Quick Step will not ride Roma Maxima on Sunday but he will be joint team leader with Rigoberto Uran for Tirreno-Adriatico and could even ride Milan-San Remo.
"I'd like to ride it to get some experience and help my teammates. My first real goals are the Ardennes: the Amstel Gold Race, Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. I'm looking towards those classics now."