Confidence is high in the Etixx-QuickStep camp after Michal Kwiatkowski resoundingly broke the Belgian team's run of second places in the Classics. The Polish rider claimed his first victory in the rainbow stripes at Amstel Gold last weekend and will now lead the team into battle at Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday.
Kwiatkowski claimed his first Classics podium at the race last year, before going on to secure another top three placing at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Despite this, Kwiatkowski told reporters ahead of his ride at Amstel that the mid-week race was his least favourite of the Ardennes, with its finish favouring the punchier riders. The team are still confident that the world champion can deliver the result on Wednesday.
"The feeling is very good, we are very happy about the victory of Kwiatkowski and tomorrow there is a new race and you never know what happens. Last year Kwiatkowski was on the podium and why not try again," Etixx-QuickStep directeur sportif Davide Bramati told Cyclingnews. "It was different in the other classics, we found riders stronger than us but this is cycling. There is only one guy that can win and Sunday it was Kwiatkowski and we are very happy.
"I hope that it will be a good race for the team and for Kwiatkowski in the world champion’s jersey."
There has been a lot of talk in the peloton surrounding the penultimate climb of Flèche Wallonne. The 1.4-kilometre ascent of the Côte de Cherave is expected to break up the race but it has been more than 10 years since a successful move has formed before the final climb. The last time a breakaway came out victorious was in 2003, and Bramati expects that the big contenders will save their energy on the climb, and the Mur de Huy will still be the decisive factor in the race.
"Maybe it could change it and there might not be that many riders arriving at the foot of the Mur de Huy but surely there will be riders like (Joaquim) Rodríguez and (Alejandro) Valverde that will wait for the last climb. We need to be careful in the climb before but we will see what happens in the race," he told Cyclingnews.
When asked if Kwiatkowski would try something early on, Bramati said: "We will wait to the end of the race."
Of Etixx-QuickStep’s Amstel team, Michal Golas, Tony Martin, Julian Alaphilippe and Petr Vakoc will be back to support Kwiatkowski and they will be joined by Gianluca Brambilla, Maxime Bouet, and Pieter Serry.