Kwiatkowski to explore stage racing potential at Team Sky

Former world champion still dreams of winning a Classic

Whenever Michal Kwiatkowski talks to the media, he faces the inevitable questions about his year as world champion. But 2015 has ticked over into 2016, his rainbow jersey has been swapped for Team Sky's black and blue, and the 25-year-old is eager to focus on the future rather than dwell on the past.

“I’m really happy I was able to win the world championships, but just leave it in the past,” says Kwiatkowski with more than a hint of exasperation as he has to fend off another question about the rainbow bands. “Just move forward.”

Looking ahead then, one of the chief issues at play after the Polish rider's move from Etixx-QuickStep to Team Sky is what sort of rider he will become in the coming years. A talented all-rounder, Kwiatkowski is a rider capable of mixing one-day victories like Amstel Gold, Strade Bianche, and the Worlds, with strong stage race showings, such as his win at the Volta ao Algarve, second place at Paris-Nice and País Vasco and, most notably, his 11th place on his debut Tour de France in 2013.

“His one-day racing pedigree is there for all to see but the question we have to ask ourselves is how far could he go in stage racing,” says Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford after swapping seats with the Pole in front of the media.

“We think he can definitely progress in stage racing, and we’re quite excited to have that opportunity to explore that with him. I think maybe he has to change a little bit in terms of how he approaches stage races, so he can get the best out of himself. So we’ll be working on that with him and see where it goes. It’s exciting.”

For his own part, Kwiatkowski acknowledged stage racing as an increasingly important area of focus, though he was less committal, more hesitant, when contemplating what he might be capable of.

“I would love to be completive in three-week races,” he said, before warning, “I cannot say straight away right now that I will become a Grand Tour rider,” and then musing, “How am I going to develop myself? Nobody knows.”

What he is sure about is that he has a long way to go and a lot to learn, and he feels he’s in the perfect place to do that, explaining that he feels “more supported” at Sky than he ever did at Etixx-QuickStep. He picks out Chris Froome as someone he can be guided by, and indeed earlier in the day, on the team’s training ride, he had been one of two riders to peel off and join the two-time Tour de France winner on a specific climb-heavy session.

“I came here to learn from the team, [about] the tactical side, the nutritional side, the preparation. Just to learn how they do it, how they approach the Tour de France,” he says. “The experience I can have from this team. They have achieved so much in Grand Tours in such a short history. I think that can be a big step for me – being in an environment where riders are doing so well in the Grand Tours."

“When I look at the races which I lost or almost won, I lost them during climbing. That’s the area in my way of racing where I can improve. With Tim [Kerrison] we can work on that and he thinks that there is a lot of room for improvement.”

'There's so much to achieve in the Classics'

The possible path to becoming is a Grand Tour rider would be a long one, and although the wheels already seem to be in motion, the one-day races remain the immediate priority.

“There’s so much to achieve in the Classics,” says Kwiatkowski of a department where Sky’s results have been notoriously underwhelming – relative, at least, to their lofty achievements on the stage racing scene.

The 25-year-old might just represent Team Sky’s best chance of finally getting their hands on a monument and he marks out Liège-Bastogne-Liège as a big objective, along with the other Ardennes Classics.

“That’s my really big personal ambition – to be there again at Amstel and Liège. I’ll also be back at Flanders and Milan-San Remo, I’m really motivated to do well there. I believe that I can use my experience in the one-day races and give something to the team. I think I can do well in the Classics in 2016."

“There is no pressure about it,” he says when asked about the expectation from his new employers. “We have to get to know each other and I don’t think there should be any expectation from the first year straight away. But it’s my personal ambition, it’s one of my own dreams to win a monument, so we have the same mindset."

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