Stage races, cobbled Classics, time trials and hilly races: Michał Kwiatkowski can do it all. But in 2017, the former world champion is taking a more focused approach to the season. Procycling finds out why the Polish rider is going all-in for the Ardennes races.
There’s a discrepancy between Michał Kwiatkowski the rider and Michał Kwiatkowski the person. On a bike, he’s a lethal and photogenic combination of classy, aero and punchy. He looks good on a bike, and he’s aggressive – one of my favourite cycling photos of 2016 was of him at speed going round the top corner of the Poggio descent, a few seconds ahead of the chasing bunch. I enjoyed his attacks with Peter Sagan at E3 Harelbeke and the Tour of Flanders last year – one (the former) was successful and one was not but the main point is that, in bike races, he makes things happen. He pedals elegantly fast, although I suspect this is more born of wiry strength than of innate grace, and even the sunglasses he wore through 2016, if it matters, gave him an air of cool. (I like the 2017 model less.)
Some Kwiatkowski results:
- 11th in the 2013 Tour de France
- first in the 2008 World Junior Time Trial Championships
- first in E3 Harelbeke in 2016
- first in the 2015 Amstel Gold
- second in Paris-Nice 2015.
That 11th place in the Tour was impressive. It was his second Grand Tour and he only slipped out of the top 10 on the final mountain stage. He was third in the white jersey competition, won by Nairo Quintana. “I had the freedom to fight for the GC,” he says. “There was no pressure and the team was motivated for winning stages. How many did we win? Four? On many days it was difficult to follow the best climbers and I was in survival mode but I was proud of what I had achieved without really thinking of riding GC.”
While I was writing this piece, Kwiatkowski won Strade Bianche, for the second time. In 2014, he’d dropped Peter Sagan on the final climb into Siena; this time he’d attacked a long way out, riding 15km on his own.