Mark Cavendish naturally hogged the attention when Omega Pharma-QuickStep made their appearance before the media in Leeds on Thursday afternoon. But Michal Kwiatkowski, for one, wasn't complaining. Despite a very impressive spring campaign that had some talking up his Tour de France prospects, the Pole is happy to remain out of the spotlight for now.
He says he'll start the Tour without any set goals either for the GC or the white jersey of best young rider, for which he is one of the favourites. "I've heard that I'm one of the favourites for the white jersey, but I've not come here with that or the GC particularly in mind. I'm still looking to gain experience and will just take the race from day to day. I think riders like Thibaut Pinot and Andrew Talansky are really the contenders for the white jersey," Kwiatkowski told Cyclingnews.
Last year, Kwiatkowski rode to 11th place on his Tour debut with just Peter Velits to support him on the high passes. This year, the Pole's compatriot and friend Michal Golas will play that crucial role.
"Having Golas on the team with me is really important because he's my friend and we train together. It helps having someone around like that when you're having a bad day," said Kwiatkowski. "We've known each other since 2007 or 2008, and he's backed me a lot during that time. I really need him here."
Kwiatkowski continued: "I think it worked well with Peter Velits last year. To have the whole team behind you on GC you have to really deserve it, and it's too soon for me for that. Having Golas in the team does give me a lot of potential support though."
The 24-year-old said he is ready and happy to be part of Cavendish's sprint lead-out train. "I will do it with pleasure," he said. "I'm not a sprinter, but I know how to sprint. A lot of GC guys expend energy just being at the front, whereas I can expend some of mine helping Mark, which I'm very happy to do."
Blessed with huge all-round ability, Kwiatkowski did come up short in the high mountains last year. But he believes he's improved in this area, and hopes he gets the chance to show that. "I think I've improved a lot both on the long climbs and all-round this year, in time trials for instance. After a successful first part of the season, I was not all that sure of my form for the Tour, but I feel I'm in really good shape," he said.
Asked about what has been described as the toughest start to the Tour for 40 years, Kwiatkowski replied: "I don't know the history of the Tour so well, I just know the Tour from last year. Obviously, the first week of the Tour is really stressful, but I've had a look over the stages and it's not as hard as the second or the third week. That's when I will see how good my form really is."
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).