Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s Michal Kwiatkowski says he will not be racing under any pressure in the upcoming Ardennes weekend races – Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège – despite taking an excellent fourth place in Amstel Gold Race, ahead of World Champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC).
“I’m going to be giving it everything I’ve got, and that Amstel result is very motivating,” the Polish rider told Cyclingnews, “but I didn’t finish any of the three Ardennes Classics last year, and Flèche Wallonne I climbed off about half way through.
“So my big goal in each race I’m doing here and everywhere else is to gain experience, see what happens, work with the team as a unit, and hopefully a good result will come too.”
Of the two Belgian Classics, Kwiatkowski says Liège “suits me better, the climbs are longer and steadier than the Mur de Huy. That last climb is so hard that maybe I can do a better result in Liège. But we have to see how the race goes.”
So far this season has been a big step up for Kwiatkowski. The former junior world time trial champion has been leader and fourth overall in Tirreno-Adriatico, second in the Tour of the Algarve and twelfth in the Tour de San Luis. He also completed the Tour of Flanders after being a key part of the day’s big breakaway and E3 Harelbeke.
“At Amstel I stayed in the main bunch, stayed near the front and tried not to get in any crashes. The team had decided to work for me after [team-mate] Gianni [Meersman] punctured and wasn’t feeling so great, and they did a great job of keeping me up there.
“I missed out on that big crash [where Gilbert went down], I was right behind [Lars] Boom (Blanco) when he attacked. I was waiting for the last climb of the Cauberg. I was on Sagan’s wheel and Sagan was following Gilbert. I couldn’t stay with [Philippe] Gilbert when he attacked, and I paid for that a little bit at the top of the Cauberg.
“I didn’t actually see Gilbert at the finish, I was following a couple of Astana guys, and I waited for the sprint - when there are ten or 15 guys in a sprint I can do ok.”
“We can count on Kwiatkowski who is in good condition and did well on Sunday, but we will see,” Davide Bramati, Omega Pharma-Quick Step sports director added.
“With him every race is like a discovery — discovering new courses and new race situations. For him it's an important test to learn again. If there is the possibility for him to be in the front, for sure we will help him out to be there and get a good result."