This time last year, Michal Kwaitkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) was in the midst of a successful but hectic start to the year. It reaped much reward but it took its toll on his body and his health. The reigning world champion and his team opted for a much less intense start to 2015, and he believes that it’s paying dividends already.
“I feel great for this part of the season…That change we made with the team, the decision to skip Tirreno for Paris-Nice that was really good because I could rest in Spain in the period between Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo. I’m really motivated,” Kwiatkowski said ahead of last weekend’s Milan-San Remo, which he finished for the first time despite a crash on the Poggio.
The Polish rider had twice previously failed to finish San Remo, something he blamed on racing too much in the earlier part of the year. “In the past years I just couldn’t recover and mentally it was too much for me. I raced so hard in Strade Bianche and in Tirreno, with the longer period and less stressful racing in Paris-Nice I just feel great this week and more motivated about my condition.”
Kwiatkowski began his season at the Tour de San Luis in January before returning to Europe to defend his title at the Volta ao Algarve - where he was eventually beaten by Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) by 27 seconds. Following his European debut, the he chose to skip the defence of his Strade Bianche title and Tirreno-Adriatico and instead ride Paris-Nice. The decision allowed him more time to recover ahead of the Classics.
“I am feeling good now in training. I am building up my form and building up my shape. I really started easy with Argentina and Algarve. I really feel progress compared to last year,” said Kwiatkowski. “I’m slowly building my shape for the Ardennes which is my biggest goal. For sure I will have time to rest after the Ardennes so that makes me confident and relaxed before the big races. I always race 400 per cent I never try to go easy, and I need this time to recover between the races.”
He was denied his first victory in the rainbow stripes once again by a Sky rider at Paris-Nice, finishing second behind Richie Porte in the overall classification. Kwiatkowski denied that yet another second place was not a disappointment, and said it left him feeling confident ahead of some bigger targets this season.
“That was my first time riding Paris-Nice against some of the best climbers, Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas and Rui Costa. I was really happy about my performance and my condition in Paris-Nice. Winning the prologue and then finishing second in the GC was really nice and it gives me hope for the rest of the season,” he said.
Kwiatkowski is racing at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday but will enjoy a short break from competition before he begins his preparation for the Ardennes at the Vuelta al País Vasco. The 24-year-old made a breakthrough at last year’s Ardennes week, which culminated in third place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.