Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) is keen to pull down the curtain on his Classics campaign in style, with the former Milan-San Remo winner saying that Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the race he has been "waiting for all winter."
Third in 2017 and in 2014 in Liège, the 28-year-old claimed a podium finish in Milan-San Remo this spring, as well as leading Paris-Nice. But whilst his Ardennes campaign in 2018 never really took flight, at Amstel Gold Race last Sunday, he came close to disputing the win. A week further on and Kwiatkowski is determined to go all out for the victory.
"It's a day I've been waiting for so long, that now it's finally here, I'm pretty excited," Kwiatkowski told Cyclingnews early this week. "I've done the recon. and finally as the name says it's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, not Liège-Bastogne-Ans.
"For me it's a more beautiful finale, maybe not as selective as when we were climbing San Nicolas, but it's still a very challenging race as well."
Kwiatkowski agreed with the majority of predictions that the race could start to heat up much earlier. "And the famous La Redoute will be famous once again, whilst La Roche aux Faucons, which was always one of the most decisive climbs, will be the most important of all of them this time," he said.
"Either way, it's going to be a super tough race, right the way from the Cote de Wanne or even the one before that [Mont-le-Soie] particularly with the weather forecast." Currently the forecast is for six degrees or even lower at the start on Sunday, with rain also likely.
Kwiatkowski pulled no punches about his performance in Amstel and Flèche Wallonne, but is convinced he has solid form despite the setbacks. "I maybe expected a bit more from Flèche because I felt good in Amstel, but missed the result and then missed it again in Flèche. But I know where I am and I have got a full team behind me. Let's try to go for it."
The Pole was notably more sceptical than Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) about whether 20 seconds, as Gilbert feels, will be enough for a breakaway to stay away from the summit of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons and triumph at the finish. "Maybe, but if you have [Gilbert's teammates] Dries Devenyns, Julian Alaphilippe and Enric Mas chasing behind it might not be enough either," he observed drily. "Anyway, it'll be a crucial point in the race. Remember, it's not a full descent, either, you have to pedal on most of it."
Sky's other top option for Liège is, of course, Wout Poels, winner of the race in 2016. That was on a radically different course, though, where even the final ascent to Ans was rendered harder than usual with an additional climb, the Côte de la Rue de Naniot, halfway up.
"Wout wasn't feeling great in Amstel Gold, but he felt much better in Flèche and that's the strength of our Classics team, we always have a group of people which works for the best riders in the race," commented Kwiatkowski.
"I have massive respect to Wout for winning in 2016 when I was the leader over there [at Sky], too, but we are always ready to swap roles. If something changes or someone feels better than me, or their legs feeling so great they could win the race then we will go for it with them."