He may have missed out on a win in the Ardennes Classics but Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) was far from disappointed after finishing on a Monument podium for the first time in his career at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. The Pole claimed third, in a sprint finish behind Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEdge) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), two riders have although have consistently got the better of him, are ten and 11 years his senior.
"For sure I’m not disappointed," he said of missing out on victory, but kept his sights focused on the bigger picture. "I’m happy with what I did this week, especially to finish on the podium because that’s something special. It’s amazing for me, and I’m very please."
Fifth in Amstel Gold, third in Flèche Wallonne and third in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a race that although looked stale at times on Sunday, was a genuine test of the 23-year-old’s mettle.
"I still have a lot to show in the future," he pointed out, perhaps aware of the pressure that has been heaped on his friend and rival Peter Sagan, who is also still looking for his first Monument win.
"Right now I have a lot of hope for the future. I was aiming to be in really good shape for Ardennes and I did it."
In one sense the finale in Liège was to be expected. There has not been one clear standout rider in this year’s trio of races and it has led to cagey action. That’s somewhat to be expected in Amstel and certainly Flèche but the surprise in Liège was simply how many riders who were still in contention by the time the race reached the Côte Saint-Nicolas. Normally only the strongest of team leaders are left but with such large group this year Kwiatkowski was willing to wait for the sprint.
"I know I can count on my sprint, so I was just waiting until the end. If you can believe that your teammates take care of you, then you know you will finish off their work, that’s pretty simple to do."
In the sprint Gerrans proved to be the fastest, however Kwiatkowski thought that Valverde was the strongest rider in the race.
"I saw Valverde riding really well and accelerating easy. He did a really long sprint, but I think Valverde was the strongest.
"Attacking wasn’t up to me, I was counting on my sprint, I saw Movistar and Orica had more than one rider, most of my chances was for bunch sprint, so I was waiting to see how we could do that."