Michal Kwiatkowski has few ambitions of targeting the overall standings in the Criterium du Dauphine with the former road world champion fully expecting to back Chris Froome both here and at the Tour de France in July.
On stage 1 from Aurillac to Jussac Kwiatkowski and Froome were among the first riders to bridge across to a dangerous move created by Zdenek Stybar and Julian Alaphilippe on the final climb, and although there was a re-grouping before the finish, the Ineos pair were never far from the front.
“When they [Deceuninck-QuickStep] started chasing the breakaway, I don’t know, around 30 kilometres before the final that was a signal that it wasn’t going to be an easy final climb. That made us pay attention to what was going to happen on the climb but we were pretty sure they were going to try and go for it and win the stage and we were just trying to stay out of trouble,” Kwiatkowski told Cyclingnews at the finish.
“We did a recon of today’s final yesterday so we knew it wasn’t easy to arrive at the climb to the finish. You can lose the race over there with the weather conditions and slippery roads, the bunch was pretty nervous even though it wasn’t the biggest one at the end but I think I did pretty good to stay out of trouble.”
The 2014 world champion wore the yellow jersey in last year’s Dauphine after winning the opening prologue in Valence. He eventually faded in the mountains and worked for teammate and overall winner Geraint Thomas, and after a long break since his last race, the Polish rider is not expecting to challenge this time around either.
“I’ve had some up and downs, today I felt good but it won’t be a surprise if I’m worse in the upcoming days because since my last race at Liege-Bastogne-Liege I haven’t raced, I’ve done a big block of training, training pretty hard and that race is always a good bit of preparation. Last year I was happy to have the yellow jersey after the prologue but this year looks different. As I said, my main objective is to be good in four weeks’ time and that’s actually the start, this race, of my second part of the season, the Dauphine until probably Lombardia and that’s a big block so there’s no rush flying up here.
“I will see how [the TT] goes, how the parcours is going to look like on VeloViewer so I can see what the graphics look like. It will be nice to test myself, but if [Chris] Froome feels great, and hopefully he will, then I need to support him in the last three days so I might need to think about saving myself for those stages too.”
Froome, on the other hand, arrives at the Dauphine with the aim of winning. A three-time winner over the years, he has designs on winning a fifth Tour de France in July, but a Dauphine victory would be a welcome boost. The leadership within Ineos for the Tour de France has not yet been announced – publicly at least – and Froome’s last overall victory in a stage race came at last year’s Giro d’Italia. Although he has the greatest track record in comparison to Geraint Thomas and young Egan Bernal, Froome would benefit from a key win ahead of July’s marquee event. For Kwiatkowski the situation is simple: he will support Froome here at the Dauphine and then repeat the act in July if the task is required.
“I think [Froome’s] main objective is being the boss at the Tour de France, as far as I know, as far as I can remember from the past, when he’s only focusing on the Tour and no Vuelta, no Giro, he’s always in pretty good shape for the Dauphine so hopefully this year as well. We don’t know what to expect from the rivals, it seems to be everybody is up there so we will see.”