Michal Kwiatkowski will lead the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team once again at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a role he’s becoming increasingly comfortable with. After securing his first Classic podium finish at Flèche Wallonne, Kwiatkowski goes into this weekend’s race brimming with confidence.
Sunday will be the 23-year-old’s third tilt at La Doyenne and his best opportunity to get a result. On his first attempt, Kwiatkowski failed to finish and last season he found himself well down the order and finished over eight minutes behind the winner Dan Martin. However, Kwiatkowski has been his best form to date at the Ardennes and continues to look like a potential podium finisher. After taking third at Flèche Wallonne, the Polish rider is looking to make much more of an impression on the race.
“I had a really good feeling on the bike. I feel recovered from the two previous Ardennes races. I'm looking forward to Sunday,” said Kwiatkowski. “I did this already twice, but I couldn't really be up there. At 30 or 40 kilometres to go I was suffering all the time. But this year, I hope it will be different. I recovered well, I took the right preparation going into the Ardennes Classics and it helps me to be in shape for this race.
“There are a lot of strong riders and I am looking forward to the chance to race against them once again."
There is only one change to the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team that assisted Kwiatkowski last Wednesday. World time trial champion Tony Martin comes back to the team after skipping the mid-week race. Aside from Martin the team is made up of climbers and the German will likely do most of his work in the early stages to keep his leader at the pointy end of proceedings and out of trouble.
Kwiatkowski believes that position is key during the race, even before they hit the first of the 10 ascents. "I think the strongest riders have to be there in the front. You have to always be aware of the situation in the race on Sunday. If you are not there, you can pay for it on the climbs later,” he explained. “If you take it easy on La Redoute and sit on the back at 30th or 40th position, there's a short descent before the next climb and the game can be over. You have to be present, and also be calm. For a few riders that could be a key moment to attack.
“At this race, you can't really recover between the climbs. So perhaps this is the hardest of the three Ardennes for most riders. I am aware of this and think my preparation to get to this point has been good for me. I think we have a strong team here and that will definitely help me to stay in good position. They've really been great supporting me and I think that is important for my morale. I always feel confident in my teammates and am thankful they have done so well for me so far."
Omega Pharma-QuickStep team for Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Carlos Verona, Jan Bakelants, Michal Golas, Michal Kwiatkowski, Pieter Serry, Serge Pauwels, Tony Martin and Wout Poels.