The rider blamed the weather while the directeur sportif blamed the legs; either way, Michal Kwiatkowski’s performance at the Amstel Gold Race was strangely lacklustre and somewhat concerning ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.
The Team Sky jerseys were amassed at the front of the bunch for large swathes of the first part of the Ardennes Classics but all that hard graft resulted in little when the defending champion was dropped with 20 kilometres remaining ahead of the crucial phase of the race.
Kwiatkowski was sheltered from the wind during the race by his teammates but unable to avoid the rain that started to fall in the final 60km. He took to social media after the race to explain how the conditions put paid to his chances of a repeat victory.
“Thanks to everyone for their support during the Amstel Gold Race! I tried my hardest but the hail with rain froze my hands, feet, legs, back and, finally, my thoughts and ambitions,” he wrote.
In his post-race assessment for Team Sky, directeur sportif Kurt-Asle Arvesen explained that the former world champion was simply on an off-day.
"It was unfortunate that Michal got dropped," said the Norwegian and former Team Sky rider. "He just didn't have good legs, it's as simple as that.”
Lars Petter Nordhaug and Sergio Henao took up responsibility in the closing stages, though both were unable to do anything more than finish in the main back behind Enrico Gasparotto and Michael Valgren.
“It was a good team performance today. Danny was super strong riding in the wind for a long time and that meant the other guys could sit behind him […] and any energy the others saved was a benefit," said Arvesen. "Lars Petter and Sergio gave it 100 per cent on the Cauberg but couldn't go with Gasparotto, and they found themselves in a 29-man group which featured better sprinters at the end.”
For Kwiatkowski, who won E3-Harelbeke and was active at the Tour of Flanders, it was a miserable title defence and a poor start to the Ardennes Classics. He won’t ride La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, instead choosing to fly to Spain for training before returning to Belgium on Thursday ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The former world champion was signed from Etixx-QuickStep to bolster Team Sky’s Classics squad, coming in as perhaps the most likely rider to end the British team’s wait for a Monument victory. Team Sky can only hope that his performance in Sunday's Amstel Gold Race was nothing more than a one-off.
Kwiatkowski himself showed no sign of any general malaise, signing off his post-race message in upbeat fashion: “On to the next one!”