The Polish national team is heading to Innsbruck, Austria, with six spots for both the elite women’s and men’s road race, and with cards to play on what some call the toughest World Championships route in over two decades.
In trying not to put too much pressure on country’s best athletes, the officials and riders themselves are shying away from discussing leadership and roles on the national teams. However, given the route and preparations, Rafał Majka (Bora-hansgrohe) and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) will most likely lead the teams in the road races on the mountainous route in Tirol next weekend.
In elite women’s road race, Niewiadoma will join forces with double national champion Małgorzata Jasińska (Movistar Team) and hope to cover big moves in the final of the 156km road race.
The duo is coming to Tirol on form – Niewiadoma recently bagged the overall at the Tour de l'Ardeche (2.1), snatching a win on a mountain-top finish at Mont-Lozere and taking the GC lead after an all-in attack on the descent the next day.
Jasińska, on the other hand, has had a consistent and successful season. The 34-year-old, well-known for her attacking spirit, only recently finished 7th at the GP de Plouay, 8th in the Lotto Belgium Tour and animated racing during the Women’s WorldTour last chapter, the Madrid Challenge.
They will be supported by Boels Dolmans' Anna Plichta as well as Marta Lach, Aurela Nerlo and Katarzyna Wilkos – a trio of riders from the Polish MAT Atom Deweloper team.
The composition of the elite men’s squad is yet to be officially announced by Polish Cycling Federation, however the six-man squad has already been posted online by Piotr Wadecki, sports director for both CCC Sprandi Polkowice and the national team.
Rafał Majka and Michał Kwiatkowski will once again bear the responsibility for the team’s result, lining up for the elite men’s road race alongside Maciej Bodnar (Bora-hansgrohe), Michał Gołaś (Team Sky), Łukasz Owsian (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) and Maciej Paterski (Wibatech 7R Merx).
Wadecki confirmed the names to Cyclingnews but declined to name an outright leader, saying that the plan will be put together later this week with all options on the table between the country’s top two racers.
“We’re in a comfortable position, both Majka and Kwiatkowski can do a very good race here. Perhaps we decide to go with two leaders, perhaps one. A variant similar to the 2016 Olympics is also on the table. We will discuss it. Those six riders know each other, they know why they are going to the Worlds. They [Kwiatkowski and Majka] don’t have, and they never have had, problems with working together,” Wadecki told Cyclingnews over the phone from Innsbruck.
Kwiatkowski, who has already accumulated 58 days since beginning of June, will line up for team time-trial event with Team Sky tomorrow, then on Wednesday for the individual time-trial and finally, on Sunday, for the road race. With two Grand Tours and the Tour of Poland under his belt, and with little rest between races, he is most likely going to play a free role and, as at to 2016 Olympics, will use his tactical skills to guide Majka into the prime position in 259km race.
Majka has shown signs of form but has so far has had an average season. A failed GC offensive at the Tour de France forced him to refocus on stage wins both in France and at the Vuelta a Espana. The 28-year-old came close on a number of occasions but didn't manage to salvage his year with a win. In Innsbruck he will be looking to showcase his climbing prowess on the circuit, which is marked by seven laps of an 8km climb and then the grand finale on the hellish slopes of Gramartboden and descent back to Innsbruck.
Despite being a stage race specialist, Majka is no stranger to one-day races. He has an Olympic bronze medal (2016) and a podium at Il Lombardia (2013), as well as a top-10 finish in Liege-Bastogne-Liege (2017) to his name.
Polish national team for the 2018 UCI Road World Championships:
Elite men’s road race: Michał Kwiatkowski, Rafał Majka, Maciej Bodnar, Maciej Paterski, Łukasz Owsian, Michał Gołaś
Elite men's time trial: Maciej Bodnar, Michał Kwiatkowski
Elite women’s road race: Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Małgorzata Jasińska, Anna Plichta, Aurela Nerlo, Marta Lach, Katarzyna Wilkos
Under-23 men’s road race: Filip Maciejuk, Kamil Małecki, Jakub Murias, Piotr Pękala, Szymon Tracz
Under-23 men’s time trial: Filip Maciejuk
Junior women’s road race: Marta Jaskulska, Wiktoria Kierat, Paulina Pastuszek, Dominika Włodarczyk
Junior women’s time trial: Marta Jaskulska
Junior men’s road race: Dominik Górak, Damian Bieniek
Junior men’s time trial: Damian Papierski, Michał Gałka