Michal Kwiatkowski is considered an outsider for this year's road race world title on Sunday, possibly because he does not ride for one of the leading nations who will field a full team of nine, strong riders. However the Polish rider is a very dangerous outsider: He won the world title in Ponferrada in 2014 with a solo attack and has since shown his huge talent by winning the Amstel Gold Race, E3 Harelbeke and this year's Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo and Clasica San Sebastian.
He worked for Chris Froome at the Tour de France and is also the Polish time trial champion. The width and depth of his talents means he will always be a contender when the rainbow jersey is up for grabs.
Kwiatkowski was part of the Team Sky squad that finished third in last Sunday's team time trial. He did not ride Wednesday's time trial but stayed in Bergen, training and studying the rolling road race circuit so he is at his best for the 267km race.
In 2014 when it rained for much of the day on the Spanish course, Kwiatkowski attacked before the final climb to catch a break and then courageously jumped away alone. He held off Simon Gerrans (Australia) and Alejandro Valverde (Spain) to win the world title at the age of just 24.
"It's on of the most important races of the season for me and not only because I'm a former world champion," he told Cyclingnews, proud to represent Poland and clearly hoping for a similar race to Ponferrada.
"I'd be happy if it's a really hard race and if it comes down to a battle between Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet, Philippe Gilbert, myself and a few others."
"I know the sprinters will want to keep the race all together but at the end of the day that's never as easy as it seems because the world championships is always a different race because we race for our countries and not our professional teams. The strength of the teams is different."
"I'm sure the Belgians will try to split the peloton and shake it up at some point, as will the French for Julian Alaphilippe. The Italians have real strength in depth, while Sagan will probably isolated but he's used to racing that way and still often wins."
Mentally strong for any kind of weather
In 2014 Poland had a nine-rider squad to back Kwiatkowski. A poorer national ranking – despite Kwiatkowski's personal success - means he will only have five riders to help during the 267km race and 11 circuits around Bergen.
"We don't have a full nine-rider squad like the bigger nations but we'll adapt and we do have the experience and strength, so we hope to be up there to the very end," he explained.
Kwiatkowski has been forced to train in the rain in Bergen this week. Forecasts are predicting dry conditions for Sunday's road race but Kwiatkowski is ready for anything, knowing rain will produce a far more selective race.
"Rain will change the race a lot. Racing for 267km is already a challenge and even more so if it rains, especially at this late point in the season," he pointed out.
"Some guys here will be mentally tired and that can make it even difficult to finish in the bunch. A lot of riders could just climb off when they're distanced, making for a smaller peloton in the final laps.
"It rained in Ponferrada but we took control of the race and it worked out perfectly for us. For sure if I feel strong, I can win again, even in the rain. When you're strong, the rain is worse for your rivals. Lets hope I'm on a good day again."
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