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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Polish champion Michal Kwiatkowski
Omega rider ready to step up after breakthrough 2013
Marginal gains may be a phrase coined and repeated by Team Sky but they’re exactly what Michal Kwiatkowski is looking for as he readies himself for the 2014 road season.
The 23-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough season last year with several impressive riders including 11th place in his debut Tour de France. He was in fact consistent throughout the season, having led the Tour de San Luis in January before winning a stage as part of Omega Pharma’s team time trial squad at Tirreno-Adriatico and netting fourth overall for himself.
Two surprise top five places in the Ardennes followed before his Tour ride was bookended with another TTT win at the Worlds.
“First things first, and I want to make a little bit more progress from last year,” Kwiatkowski confidently told Cyclingnews at his team’s recent training camp.
“I have some great memories from last season and I believe in myself even more now so the ambitions are to ride well at Tirreno, be in the best shape possible for the Ardennes and then I’d like to ride the Tour again.”
Despite only taking one individual win last year – the Polish national road race – Kwiatkowski is well aware that his consistency in both disciplines and longevity throughout the season mark him out as a rider with immense potential. His climbing can still be erratic, as he showed in Argentina last season, but his rate of improvement, as the Tour de France demonstrated, illustrated how far he’d come even in a few short months.
“My strength is that I can be good everywhere,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I don’t really have weak points and that’s good if I have GC in major races on my mind. That’s good because if you look at the Tour for example, we’re going to ride on the cobbles and I’m pretty good at that. I know I still need to work on things and improve my climbing as that’s where I lose the most time.
“I still need to lose a bit more of that baby fat, that young weight so I need to ride more kilometres but there’s more to come from me. Race weight for me at the moment is around 66, 67 kilograms.”
Omega Pharma-QuickStep will head into this season with one of the most complete rosters in the peloton, and an array of riders capable of winning on every terrain. The signings of Mark Renshaw and Rigorberto Uran bolster their sprinting and stage race armoury, but Kwiatkowski remains on track for another shot at the Tour de France, where a top ten place is well within his grasp.
“You need luck in order to do a GC but we already have Cavendish and Tony Martin in the team so the team spirit is already going to be high. I’m not going to talk lots about my ambitions there but it would of course be nice to do another strong GC rider there again,” Kwiatkowski said.
“We’re a team more than anything so it’s about getting results as a team. I still qualify for the white jersey and I will try and do my best but there’s no pressure from the team. Maybe they expect something more from last year but I and them just want me to improve.
“Maybe last year there were a few moments where I was too excited but overall I got everything out of myself. I had some weak moments and a few bad days but I was really surprised with how I went. If you’d said to me at the start that I’d finish 11th, I wouldn’t have believed you but I could handle that pressure around me and even wore the white jersey for a while.”