Kwiatkowski feels his way into new campaign at Tour de San Luis
World champion takes second place in stage 5 time trial
Michal Kwiatkowski’s measured performance in the time trial at the Tour de San Luis on Friday was a microcosm, perhaps, of what he plans for his entire spring campaign. For the past two years, the Etixx-QuickStep man has hit the ground running only to suffer understandable lulls as the season draws on.
This time around, with objectives dotted throughout the year – the Ardennes Classics, the Tour de France and, of course, the defence of his world title in Richmond – Kwiatkowski is taking a more carefully calibrated approach to the opening months of the season.
The rainbow jersey has been prominent on the front of the peloton all week in Argentina, of course, but only because Kwiatkowski is happy to roll up his sleeves and work in support of Mark Cavendish. But on the race’s two summit finishes to date, the Pole has opted to hold fire with later, grander objectives in mind.
“I’m trying to do what I have to,” Kwiatkowski told Cyclingnews in San Luis on Friday. “You can see me on the finishes of the climbs going easy, because we’re trying for a stage win with Cav and trying to keep the group together.
“For me, this is just the first race of the season and I’m trying to learn that I need to take some of the first races of the season easier because in the past, I’ve had the difficulty where I’ve been in big shape from the start and then I’ve paid for it. I’m trying to take it more calmly which is difficult for me because I always want to race.”
Considering his talents as a rouleur, Kwiatkowski was never going to ease off in Friday’s 17.4 kilometre time trial around San Luis, and he lived up to his reputation by placing second on the stage, four seconds down on winner Adriano Malori (Movistar).
The out and back course made for the quintessential race of two halves. Riders had the wind at their backs for the slightly downhill opening section, before turning for a difficult grind back towards the finish line. Kwiatkowski was some 17 seconds down on Malori at the 9.5km mark, but he closed in dramatically on the Italian in the closing kilometres.
Speaking to Cyclingnews after he descended from the podium, Kwiatkowski explained that he had followed a fixed power output for the duration of the time trial and he declared himself pleased with the outcome.
“I think Malori’s a little bigger than me so going on the tailwind and descent at the start was easier for him,” he laughed. “But you know I was trying to pace my effort with the same power and I did that really well and I’m happy with what I did. Finishing second behind Malori is a really good result but actually it doesn’t matter what place I finished. I’m happy about my performance because until now I did some basic training and it’s just the beginning of my season.”
The rainbow bands can make a man more distant and guarded in his dealings with the outside world, but while Kwiatkowski is trying to curb his early-season aggression, he seems unchanged by his status as world champion, chatting affably with reporters who approached the hot seat area during the final hour of the time trial.
“When I’m racing I’m not really thinking about it,” he said. “I know it’s a big responsibility and I have to organise my time, my agenda, my time for the interviews, everything. I’m quite busy but in the end I’m staying the same person. I’m trying to realise my goals. Until now everything’s going well so let’s hope I can be able to achieve my goals this season.”
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.