Kwiatkowski savours Tour de Pologne victory after courageous final defence

Pole rides tactically smart after Yates launches all-out attack

History turned full circle for Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) at the Tour de Pologne after the Pole managed to secure overall success on the same finish where he lost the race six years ago.

In 2012, Kwiatkowski lost to Italy’s Moreno Moser in Bukowina, eventually finishing second overall place. This time despite a dangerous late attack by Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), the Pole limited any time loss, finishing sixth at the line and so kept the leader’s yellow jersey by 14 seconds.

It was a narrow margin, but enough of a gap to seal the Team Sky rider's first ever victory in his country’s biggest stage race, which also came with two stage wins at Szczyrk, where he took the lead, and Bielsko-Biala.

The Tour de Pologne is Kwiatkowski’s second WorldTour stage race win after taking Tirreno-Adriatico this spring. His success and his form bodes well for his upcoming participation in the Vuelta a España, which he led in 2016, and in the World Road-Race Championships in Innsbruck. The Pole won the world title in Ponferrada, Spain in 2014.

“That’s the Tour of Pologne… You’ve got those emotions until the end of the race because everything is so close,” Kwiatkowski said afterwards, savouring his victory.

“We didn’t panic as a team; without the boys I wouldn’t have been able to defend the jersey. They rode an amazing race; first Ian Stannard and Lukas Wisniowski, then Michal Golas and Salvatore Puccio, Pavel Sivakov and Sergio Henao at the end. They were incredibly strong.”

It was pointed out to Kwiatkowski that for all of Team Sky’s strength, he had been isolated at the very end of the decisive stage, when Simon Yates launched what was the most dangerous attack of the entire race. Kwiatkowski brushed such considerations beside.

“Considering how long the Tour de Pologne is, I was on my own for just a couple of kilometres, which is not a big deal,” he reasoned.

He raced tactically, trying to balance controlling Yates while not bringing him back too soon. Kwiatkowski wisely followed a series of counter-attacks by other riders over the steepest section of the final climb and only came to the front when the gradient eased. That ultimately combined to keep Yates under control.

“I didn’t want to close down Yates because Bennett and Teuns were on my wheel,” Kwiatkowski explained.

“It’s kind of a difficult scenario when you don’t know the gap to Yates, and you don’t want to close it because if I did, I might have lost against Teuns at the finish. It’s strange to race like that, to have to work tactically.”

As for regaining the jersey where so many years ago he had lost it, Kwiatkowski resorted to the cliché of “That’s cycling” to express his feelings after cancelling a difficult memory from early in his career.

“Before the stage, I was sure it was going to be a very difficult day and few years ago I lost the jersey here, “ he recounted. “But that’s why this is such an amazing race, in front of so many amazing fans supporting me.” 

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