It’s fair to say the Tour de Pologne has been a significant race in the course of Michal Kwiatkowski’s young but already highly successful career. It was where the Pole’s trajectory towards his current status as world champion was first set, and where he would later make a first real impact on the professional stage.
As a young boy Kwiatkowski turned out at the Mini Tour de Pologne, a side event for children, and it was at that point that he knew he wanted to become a bike racer.
“As a child the Tour de Pologne came to my hometown and I participated in the race at the Mini Tour de Pologne,” Kwiatkowski told media ahead of the 72nd edition of the race. “It was amazing, it was so nice to see all the people around to see the stars of cycling in Poland. That was my first experience of the Tour de Pologne and that’s when I decided to become a rider."
As well as setting him off along the route to a career in professional cycling, the Tour de Pologne was also the stage on which Kwiatkowski announced himself for the first real time as one of the brightest prospects in the sport. In 2012, at the age of 22 and in his first year with Etixx-QuickStep (then Omega Pharma-QuickStep), he took three top-five stage finishes on his way to second overall. He already had a first pro win in a prologue at the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen earlier in the year but this was a statement of intent at WorldTour level.
“This race has always been the race that launched the talents,” Kwiatkowski acknowledged. “It’s the race where a lot of riders show up and become very important riders. It happened to me when I was second, it happened to [Moreno] Moser in the same year, it happened to Marcel Kittel [in 2011], so it’s a perfect race for young riders to build up and start becoming important riders on the international stage.”
Given his history with the race, the 25-year-old is delighted to be back and couldn’t be prouder to be able to show off his world champion’s jersey on home soil.
“It’s a beautiful race, being here in front of my public in the rainbow jersey is going to be amazing. For sure I will try to show myself here, we have a strong team here the other riders will help me over the seven hard days. I love being here. After two years away it’s a dream to be back here with this jersey.
Kwiatkowski comes into the Tour de Pologne on the back of a disappointing Tour de France, which he abandoned in tears on stage 17. After spending some time at home, he is unsure exactly how he his legs will be, but is keen to put on a show for the home fans, whether that’s by targeting a stage win or the general classification.
The seven-stage race starts out with three flat days before heading for the hills. Stage 4 is lumpy but stages 5 and 6 are where the climbing gets really gruelling. If Kwiatkowski can stick with the purer climbers then the flat 25km time trial on the final day should play into his hands.
“10 days ago I finished my Tour de France earlier than I expected - I was just empty, there was nothing left. It’s always hard to pull out from a race like that, wearing the rainbow jersey in the best race in the world, but stopping was the wise decision,” Kwiatkowski said.
“In the end, I had a bit more recovery time before the start of this race. I have spent my time in Poland, at my home in Turno, and I had time to recover and be with the family and do a couple of nice training rides to build up again. I’m mentally and physically more fresh than before and I’m ready to go.
“I’ve come to do well, I have a good team around me but it’s difficult now to forecast what might happen in the next few days. The last three days will be the most important. I hope to be up there but it won’t be easy.”