Milan-San Remo is the easiest Monument to finish, but the hardest to win, so said Mark Cavendish. But what about winning it twice? After beating Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in a dramatic finale last year, Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) is targeting a second this weekend.
Only 14 riders have won the Italian Monument on more than one occasion – Eddy Merckx is the undoubted champion with seven wins. The number of those that have won the race in consecutive seasons is even fewer - eight to be exact – and the Polish former world champion is also looking to become the first back to back winner since Erik Zabel in 1998.
Kwiatkowski has shown that he is in great form heading into the race by winning Tirreno-Adriatico ahead of Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing), but says that he's not putting pressure on himself as he looks to defend his La Primavera title.
"Whatever you say before the race isn't important. I would prefer a race without any pressure and without being the favourite," said Kwiatkowski. "At the end of the day, it's about how you race over the last 100 kilometres, or even over the Cipressa and the Poggio. It doesn't matter if I'm favourite or not. It's all about these key moments.
"I would love to be in the game once again. I was in the game for the last two years, I was able to win last year which was wonderful. I was able to have a go on the Poggio in 2016, but we'll see how it goes this year. You need a lot of luck as well in Milan-San Remo, that's the type of race you deal with. You're racing for so many kilometres, and then it can be gone by a stupid crash before the Cipressa or something like this. I'm confident with my shape before this race and let's hope that the team will be there as they supported me so well last year. I think I will have the same support this year."
Kwiatkowski edged out Sagan by the thinnest of margins last year, with a photo finish necessary to split the two. The pair escaped together with Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) thanks to an attack from Sagan on the Poggio. Sagan complained afterwards that Kwiatkowski hadn't done enough in the breakaway and made it clear on Tuesday that he was still unimpressed with the Team Sky rider's tactics, saying that he wouldn't have been happy to win in such a manner.
Kwiatkowski replied in kind during his race winner's press conference, saying that it was the smartest that would win rather than the strongest. Kwiatkowski said afterwards that it was just a case of mind games from Sagan and played a bit of his own by naming the world champion as his only big favourite for the event.
"I think it's only Peter. He's the biggest favourite from my point of view," he said. "Who else? There are always a bunch of guys. You can name 20 guys and when someone wins it's no surprise, but I think that the biggest one is Peter. I saw yesterday [Tirreno-Adriatico stage 6] what he did in the sprint and how he came back and he's the biggest favourite. I'm just going to name him."
During his post-race press conference, Kwiatkowski was asked for his thoughts on the case surrounding his teammate Chris Froome, who is currently under investigation by the UCI after returning elevated levels of salbutamol. Kwiatkowski echoed the comments of many, saying that he hoped for the case to be resolved as soon as possible.
"From my point of view, it's a lot of talk and speculation in the media, which is… I don't know if it should be there," he said. "It's up to people to decide if they should say something about it. I think that everybody wants it to be resolved as quickly as possible and that's it. I think it will be great to have all of this behind us."
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