After three days of leading the Vuelta a España, more than half an hour after the finish Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) was still weighing up the pros and cons of somewhat unexpectedly losing it to Rudy Molard (Groupama-FJD) on Wednesday.
Not considered a major GC challenger, Molard made it into the breakaway of the day, and whilst Sky worked hard in the second half of the race to keep the move under control, they left it too late to ensure that Kwiatkowski did not lose the lead.
The Pole's second spell as Vuelta a España leader - he was also in la roja for a day in 2016 - has ended with Molard leading the race over Kwiatkowski by 41 seconds.
As Kwiatkowski pointed out afterwards, the loss of the lead will lower the pressure on Sky to control the race and will allow them to save energy for the last two-thirds of the race. On top of that, he has had a hard season so far and this is his second Grand Tour in three months.
But at the same time, he pointed out to Cyclingnews, there are always elements of disappointment in losing a race lead and there was not a deliberate strategy to do so.
"You never really can plan that. But that situation, the breakaway - it was quite good to let it go and then we calm down some things and we could stay under control until the end of the stage," Kwiatkowski said.
"There are always mixed feelings about losing the jersey, but when you do it in the right way… we should be happy about the team performance, today, everybody was on it. It was a tough day, another. But at the end of the day, we saved a lot of energy and we have to think about three weeks."
The option of looking for different targets to the GC, he pointed out, remains on the table - although it won't be taken for now.
"It's always easy to switch from riding GC to going for stages. If I lose that possibility [of doing GC] then I'll play the role of doing that. Even if you're not riding GC, even if you're doing different things in the Vuelta, you have to think about managing your efforts over three weeks time and I am preparing for the World Championships too.
"I have had so many race days this season. So I really have to think about what I'm doing here, what I can do, what I shouldn't do, and that's what's going through my head. I'm quite happy that I can save a lot of energy today because the first couple of days were really hard."
His GC options, he agreed, will remain intact at least until the Covatilla hors categorie summit finish on stage 9. And he is, he told Cyclingnews, more or less convinced that he can go further than there in the GC battle.
"For sure. The next three days, there could be some surprises of course, but they're probably the easiest days of this Vuelta, let's say - I hope so anyway."
"The Covatilla will be really important and if I still want to, I'll stay in the GC. Probably I will be up to that challenge."
Back in Poland, his spell as a Grand Tour leader has been closely followed by cycling fans, friends and family, Kwiatkowski concluded. "My fiancé was out here for the first three days, too, and of course my family are supporting me. Especially after the Tour of Pologne, too," - which he won - "a lot of fans are following my journey through the Vuelta and onto the World Championships. I think it's great that I can keep on pushing and doing what I like - which is racing."
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