It was a day of mixed fortunes for Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) on stage 5 of the Tour de France. The 24-year-old suffered a crash and a mechanical, which left him more than a minute behind the stage winner. He does, however, take heart from his performance and has moved himself up to fifth in the general classification.
"What can I say, we had bad luck. With a bit of good luck, who knows what could have happened, with how good I felt," said Kwiatkowski. "Many guys in the peloton had bad luck today, and to be in the group with Nibali in yellow like that is encouraging. In the end, Omega Pharma - Quick-Step is the team that knows what they have to do even when they have trouble. We showed we are really strong today and we will keep going on in the next stages."
Kwiatkowski hit the deck before the race hit the cobbles, but bounced back fairly triumphantly by making it into the front group when the peloton began to split up on the rain-soaked pavé. As the lead group slowly whittled down in numbers, it was looking good for Kwiatkowski to put himself in an enviable position ahead of the mountains. But things began to derail on him as they hit the penultimate sector.
"We were calm and waiting for the hardest moments. I was feeling super good. I was much more relaxed on the cobbles than ever before," said Kwiatkowski. "On the cobbles of the second-to -last sector, however, I had a flat tire on the front at about 700 meters from the end of the sector. I was sliding left to right, but knew there would be mechanics at the end of the sector. So I tried to get there and I then swapped my wheel. Renshaw was trying to help me and Matteo, until the end of the stage, we tried to chase the group in front of us. But it was really hard to close the gap even when I was doing my best."
Omega Pharma-QuickStep was expected to dominate the stage, due to their vast experience on the cobbles. They did just that and had four men in the leading group at one point, including Mark Renshaw and Matteo Trentin, who both would have been contenders if it had come down to a sprint finish. However, Kwiatkowski's mechanical put paid to their chances as well as his.
Despite the bad luck, Kwiatkowski couldn't have asked to be in a much better position with the mountains only a few days away. It remains to be seen if he can hold this form for the full three weeks, unlike last year, but it shows promise. Kwiatkowski will wear the young riders' jersey on stage 6 with classification leader Peter Sagan (Cannondale) donning the points jersey. The Polish rider is only six seconds down on the Slovakian and could see him take control of the competition in the coming days.