The Etixx-Quick Step rider has been officially named in Poland’s line-up and will be attempting to become the first rider to win first back-to-back rainbow jerseys since Paolo Bettini in 2007. The 25-year-old will line up alongside three-time Tour de France stage winner Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) for the first time in an elite men’s event. The last time the duo raced together in the white and red of Poland was back in 2011 in the U23 ranks.
Last year eight riders guided Kwiatkowski to the victory in Ponferrada, working for most of the distance and placing their leader in a good position before the final loop, where he launched his victorious attack. Kwiatkowski’s assault on the rainbow jersey and the sacrifice of the team as a whole has given a boost to cycling in Poland and was widely acclaimed in the media – the squad was compared to ‘husaria’, Poland’s elite heavy cavalry from the 17th century, and was awarded a Cross of Merit by the president.
This year national team coach Piotr Wadecki can only take six riders to Richmond. As well as Majka, Kwiatkowski can count on the support of his teammate Michal Golas and Tinkoff-Saxo’s Maciej Bodnar, as well as national road champion Tomasz Marczynski (Torku Sekerspor) and Maciej Paterski (CCC Sprandi Polkowice).
The last rider to win two consecutive rainbow jerseys was Paolo Bettini in 2006 and 2007, while previously that achievement only featured in the palmarès of Georges Ronsse (1928, 1929), Rik van Steenbergen (1956, 1957), Rik van Looy (1960, 1961) and Gianni Bugno (1991, 1992). Kwiatkowski, who has struggled in the second part of this year and didn’t finish either the Tour de France or the Tour de Pologne, is now preparing for his title defence and will participate in the Grand Prix Cyclistes de Québec and Montréal next week.
It’s still almost a month until the racing for rainbow glory kicks off, yet the Polish Cycling Federation (PZKol) has already announced line-ups for both the women’s and men’s races across the championships. Bodnar will also be going in the 53 kilometre men’s individual time trial, along with surprise Tour de Pologne time trial winner Marcin Bialoblocki (One Pro Cycling).
Poland also lines up with seven riders in the elite women’s road race with European champion Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Rabo Liv) set to lead a roster that includes Eugenia Bujak (BTC City Ljubljana), Malgorzata Jasinska (Ale Cipollini) and Anna Plichta (Nestle Fitness).