Defending world champion Michal Kwiatkowski has made no bones about the fact that he wants to win the elite men's road race for a second consecutive time at the UCI Road World Championships held on September 27 in Richmond, Virginia.
"I would love to spend another year in the rainbow jersey," Kwiatkowski told Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview ahead of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec on Friday. "It is the dream of every rider, and for sure, it is one of mine."
Last September, Kwiatkowski won the world title in Ponferrada, Spain, supported by a full team of nine that included Maciej Paterski, Michal Golas, Maciej Bodnar, Bartosz Huzarski, Bartlomiej Matysiak, Przemyslaw Niemiec, Michal Podlaski and Pawel Poljanski.
He jumped clear of a dwindled front group with seven kilometres to go and held off a chase group to win the title, leaving Simon Gerrans (Australia) to fight for silver and Alejandro Valverde (Spain) for bronze.
This year Poland only earned six spots for Worlds and national team coach Piotr Wadecki decided that Kwiatkowski will be supported by Rafal Majka, who is a three-time Tour de France stage winner and recent podium finisher at the Vuelta a Espana, along with national champion Tomasz Marczynsk, Bodnar, Golas and Paterski.
The parcours in Richmond is quite different than the one in Ponferrada but it still suits a powerful classic-style rider like Kwiatkowski. The 260km race features a cobbled climb through Libby Hill Park, a 19 per cent climb up 23rd street and the final climb up Governor's Street, all in the last three kilometres of the 16km urban circuit.
"I haven't seen the course yet and I've only seen profiles on YouTube or from hearing things about the course from other riders," Kwiatkowski said. "As always it will depend on how the peloton wants to play, how the riders want to play and how the weather will play a factor in the race. For me right now, I heard it is a really hard finish and could come down to the very last kilometre."
Kwiatkowski is a proven finisher on similar courses. This spring he won Amstel Gold Race in a late-move after the Cauberg to beat Valverde and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge). He also showed top form after winning the opening prologue at Paris-Nice and ended up second overall.
Although he started the Tour de France in July, he ended up abandoning after stage 17 to Pra-Loup, and in Quebec City he admitted to Cyclingnews that he struggled to find good form during the months of June and July.
He more recently raced in a series of one-day events in order to re-build his form for Worlds. He managed to finish in the 40s at the Brussels Cycling Classic and GP de Fourmies, and made improvements at the Grands Prix Cyclistes in Quebec City and Montreal, where he finished 14th and 12th, respectively.
"I believe that racing in Quebec was the best preparation for Worlds," Kwiatkowski said. "Being in North America already will help the riders adapt quicker than other riders who chose to stay over in Europe or who were racing at the Vuelta a Espana.
"I believe my condition is good for the road race at Worlds. It would be nice to have positive vibes after the two races in Quebec and to be optimistic going into the World Championships."
When asked to predict his chances of winning a second consecutive world title in the elite men's road race, Kwiatkowski said. "It's difficult to predict. It is all about luck and attrition. I hope that my condition will be good enough to be present in the race as the defending world champion.
"I know it will be really difficult but it is a big motivation for me to try and win the rainbow jersey again."