On Tuesday, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was left lamenting the lack of cohesion in the chase that saw him finish second on stage three of the Tour of Britain. Fast forward 24 hours and the Polish rider was sitting in the yellow jersey after taking victory in Bristol.
Kwiatkowski timed his drive to the line to perfection, passing the remnants of the escape group inches before the white line. Although, according to the Pole, it wasn’t as easy as it looked. "I didn’t know where it would end," he said of the final ascent onto the Bristol Downs. "I saw so many corners and I kept thinking that it would be the end, but it continued. When I saw the last kilometre sign, I knew it was over, but it was a long way to the finish from the top when you have a full leg of lactate.
"I just started my sprint in the last corner. I was sure that nobody was on my wheel in that moment and I’m happy I finished that way after the work from the team. Niki Terpstra and Julian Vermote really closed the big gap to the nine riders."
With the flat finish today, the plan for Omega Pharma-QuickStep had been to try and keep Mark Cavendish in contention for the sprint. However, that plan went out the window pretty swiftly when they hit the final incline, which began just after three kilometres to go.
"From the beginning of the last climb the pace was so high, we knew that Mark (Cavendish) and other Mark (Renshaw) would not get over it. I was trying to stay with the fastest guys there," explained Kwiatkowski. "I didn’t expect such a hard climb at the end."
Kwiatkowski finished second on Tuesday’s hilltop finish on the Tumble and with the ten-second bonus earned by winning in Bristol, he now leads Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF) by three seconds. There are a number of other riders within touching distance of the jersey and the Polish rider accepts that keeping the jersey into the final day.
"You can see that it is not an easy race to control. There are so many guys that want to be in the breakaway and you can see today that it was difficult to bring back the group. We have a really strong team and of course we will try to win the race, but there are still a few stages to go."
Kwiatkowski’s lead over Zardini is a small one, but the key time gap in the general classification is that to defending champion Bradley Wiggins. The Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider has bolstered his advantage to 27 seconds on the Sky rider. Despite the reasonable cushion, Kwiatkowski is more than ware of Wiggins and the threat he poses in Sunday’s time trial.
"I know that it is important to get the bonus seconds before the time trial. It’s not an easy thing competing with Bradley," he said. "On every stage we have a bonus on the finish and the sprint so I think it is really important but it is not an easy thing when you know that we have almost 9 kilometre time trial and you know that there is Bradley Wiggins who can take a lot of seconds."