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Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)
Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider with a wary eye on his rivals for the title
Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) moved into the lead at the Tour de San Luis after finishing third in the stage 4 time trial and insisted that he would aim to defend the jersey. The Polish time triallist was a compete outsider for the overall win at the start of the race with the main focus falling on Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), Vincenzo Nibali (Cannondale) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC). However Kwiatkowski put in his best-ever performance in the mountains on stage three, pipping van Garderen and Bart De Clercq (Lotto Belisol) to the line for third spot.
While Kwiatkowski has always been recognised as a promising rider against the clock he has never competed against the best climbers. He told Cyclingnews that his new winter programme had concentrated on his climbing deficiencies and that he had managed to retain his time trailing power.
"It's been about specific work and more climbing. I was really focussed on my weight. That was the most important aspect for me. I've not lost power in the time trials, which has helped. To be honest I've not lost that many kilos, maybe one or two in the last year but I have less fat," he said.
With two punishing mountain stages to come, Kwiatkowski will be put under pressure from a number of directions. Most importantly he will need to keep van Garderen in check. The American lies 23 seconds back in second place and said he would look to exploit any weaknesses in Kwiatkowski's armour on the final 10.5 kilometre assent to Carolina on stage 5. The stage finishes with a long false flat but with pitches of around 10 per cent on the lower slopes. Kwiatkowski will need to be on his guard, and will have to rely on Sylvain Chavanel - likely to be his last teammate - for experience and guidance.
“I know that I'm in good position and I'll try with the team to keep the jersey until the end of the race," the race leader said.
Van Garderen isn't the only rider that Kwiatkowski and QuickStep will need to monitor. Lotto's Jurgen Van Den Broeck is third in the general classification at 42 seconds, while his teammate Bart De Clercq is only a further 14 seconds adrift. Alberto Contador is a minute down on GC but his Saxo-Tinkoff team stretched the field on the run up to the final climb on stage 3 and if the Spaniard is intent on a stage win Kwiatkowski is aware of the danger.
"Don't forget that there's also Contador and he's a big champion. I'm sure he'll want to try something to win the stage. Almost anything can happen in these conditions and this hot weather."
Stage 5 runs from Juana Koslay to Carolina.