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Disconnect, disappear, reboot: Niewiadoma ready to attack 2022 season

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM)
Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) (Image credit: Canyon-SRAM/Thomas Maheux)

“I’m really excited about the season. I feel like the word has been thrown around very often but this year I truly feel excited and I really want to start the season again.” Kasia Niewiadoma tells Cyclingnews, having done a training camp in Mallorca and is about to do another one in Calpe, Spain.

"After the first training camp with my team I realised that everyone is super stoked and ready to go for it. We have a couple of new riders and I definitely feel that there’s a motivated atmosphere in the air. We have some super-strong riders like Chloé Dygert who is amazing, and unstoppable on the flat. Then we have Sarah [Roy], who is so motivated to win, and we have Maud [Oudeman] who is already so good and has fitted into the team easily.”

The Canyon-SRAM rider feels ready to attack the season after her long winter break. 

The Polish rider took a full step back, doing her favourite activities, including baking bread and cakes. She spent time with her family and partner Taylor Phinney in Poland, followed by a two-month stay in Boulder, Colorado where they did leisure gravel rides on local trails such as the Sunshine Canyon.

“I can definitely disconnect from everything when in Boulder because I am so far away from everything and it feels like it’s easier to disappear from the world. Boulder is beautiful and the riding is amazing.

“This year I took it differently in comparison to other years where I would definitely start training harder and with the proper schedule at the beginning of December. Whereas this year I took it easier, starting with this kind of schedule in January. And in my head I feel like I am more fresh and in good shape.”

Rest was even more important for the 27-year-old after a rollercoaster end to her 2021 season. A bronze medal in the road race at the UCI Road World Championships was followed by crashing out of the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

“The Worlds were definitely my highlight of the year. I got a podium for the first time in my life at the Worlds but also I knew that I was perfectly prepared. I was just happy that I managed with my coach to bring my best fitness to the highest level. 

"Paris-Roubaix was such a special day. In the preparation for that race I felt like I was going to war. Everyone wanted to be part of the historic moment, but you knew your body was going to be destroyed at the end of the race. Unfortunately, anything can happen and that’s what happened in my case. Just before the first cobbled section, we were riding so fast and all of a sudden there was a crash, and in a second I found myself on the road.”

Niewiadoma's trademark firebrand style of racing which lights up the race in the closing stages can lead to frustration when she falls short and victory has eluded the Canyon-SRAM rider since the Amstel Gold Race in 2019.

“I get angry and disappointed that it didn’t work out. Everyone works so hard for the victories, and especially in the last two years it’s been frustrating to know that I can win because my shape is good enough. But then something happens and I can’t get what I wanted. Then I calm down and try to refocus for the next race, and I just move on as fast as possible so that I don’t spread negative energy.”

Being linked to a famous cycling family has also been helpful. Phinney, as well as his parents, former racers Connie and Davis can identify with her situation and are able to provide a different, analytical angle and provide reassurance.

Niewiadoma has no plans to end her her gutsy racing style, inspired by her own family.

“I’m the youngest in my family. So it’s much easier to not overthink things and just go for it because you know that your siblings have got your back. I never got this feeling of being afraid of something or being shy or feeling small, and I feel like maybe that’s the thing that helps me in cycling now," she explains to Cyclingnews.

“Once you find yourself in the moment where you are capable of attacking, you’re body allows you to do it over and over again. It is very motivating and builds confidence, and as a woman you are very empowered. 

"A quiet or pack style of racing makes me feel small. When you race, that’s the last thing you want to have in your head. I don’t want doubts a worries. I just want to have a clear head and fully concentrated.”

Extra support from Canyon-SRAM

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM)

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) (Image credit: Canyon-SRAM/Thomas Maheux)

Team captain, Tiffany Cromwell who has recently enjoyed success at the Belgian Waffle gravel race in the US, recognises this trait in the Polish rider. 

“Kasia’s a natural talent. I remember her in her Rabobank days, and I think she’s someone who is confident, and I think that’s the key – having the right environment around her. When she came to our team, I knew that she needed that bit of freedom and flexibility to be herself, and that way she’d be able to perform her best. She has that very strong punchy kick to her on a climb, and her best strength is on the 1-5 minute climbs. When she puts in those attacks nobody can match her.” 

However, Cromwell recognises that there have been times when Kasia was isolated as the team were not able to stay up there in the bunch in the last part of the race.

“I remember the fourth stage of the Women’s Tour in 2019 was one that finished on a short punchy climb, and we were playing to set up Kasia because it was a stage that we knew would suit her strengths. We would be there until about half way where we would support her but then she would be left a bit alone. But during the stage one of our riders managed to stay in the race and support her, lead her into the final and let her do her thing. I just remember the satisfaction when hearing over the radio that Kasia had won it. 

“At Amstel Gold, we weren’t able to support Kasia deep into the race, so she was left alone. But that’s where she showed her strength and put in that fierce attack on the Cauberg and held on to the finish.” 

Among the new recruits are experienced racer Sarah Roy, who brings significant strength to the team.

Roy, who joined from Team BikeExchange, had an injury-plagued 2021 season and is really looking forward to racing alongside the former Women’s Tour winner. 

“Last year was a really disappointing year for me performance-wise. I was very healthy, fit and strong, then I would jump on a race bike and everything would fall apart and I would crash. I think I crashed in just about every race I started, or I had a mechanical. I was super-unlucky, having these race-ending situations. 

“Being on a new team is a fresh start. Kasia is a very different rider to me, so I am happy to help her in her style of races wherever I can. I think Kasia’s style of racing is really exciting to watch and I hope that it will encourage more people to race in that way. She’s really out there, always putting it on the line without fear of failure.” 

For the early part of the season, Niewiadoma will be focusing on Strade Bianche and the Ardennes Classics, where she has had good finishes in the past.

Summer will be about the inaugural Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, in which the punchy racer is eyeing the stage into Epernay, which includes the steep 1km-Côte de Mutigny near the finish.

Interestingly, Connie Carpenter-Phinney raced in the 70s and 80s but because the inaugural Société du Tour de France women’s race clashed with the inaugural women’s road race at the Los Angeles Olympics, which Carpenter-Phinney won, she never competed in the French event. 

Nevertheless, the American Olympic Champion still shares many fascinating stories from those days with Niewiadoma.

“When Connie talks about the racing, I wish I was born in the 60s and 70s so that I could race back then. It looks like everyone had so much fun. She would train with the guys and everyone just enjoyed being on their bike. There wasn’t any specific work or individual training plans. Everyone was just thrown in together and had fun.”

For now, Niewiadoma and her Canyon-SRAM team are firmly focused on the start of the 2022 season where she will compete in Strade Bianche on March 5 in Siena, Italy.

Join Cyclingnews for live coverage of 2022 Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift and Strade Bianche, and check in after the race for our full report, results, gallery, news and features.

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