Almost a week after wining the world road race title, Michal Kwiatkowski has revealed he is still struggling to realise what he has achieved, and how wearing the rainbow jersey for the next 12 months will change his career and his life.
Kwiatkowski spent last week at home in Poland with his family, travelling to Italy on Friday ready for Sunday's Il Lombardia. He went for an emotional first training ride in his official sponsor-decorated rainbow jersey on Saturday morning with his Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammates. He and the team have opted for a traditional look, matching black shorts with the iconic rainbow jersey.
“I saw it (the rainbow jersey) last night and I couldn't sleep because I was thinking what it'd be like to wear it,” Kwiatkowski admitted in a special press conference in Como, the day before Il Lombardia.
“It's actually an incredible feeling. I didn't think it'd be so visible and so nice, it looks good, especially with my Specialized bike and how it's all been designed together. I hope everybody likes it. It feels incredible that I somehow represent cycling now by wearing the rainbow jersey.
“The last week has been completely different to what I'm used to in my life. After winning the world title it was difficult to focus on Lombardia, but I'm a person who never really wants to celebrate my victories too much. I stayed at home with girlfriend and family and meet with some friends. I wanted to stay relaxed but actually was still in shock. But I trained in my home town and then I came here on Friday. I wanted to show my rainbow jersey at Lombardia.”
Racing elastically at Il Lombardia
Kwiatkowski will wear number 171 at Il Lombardia and lead the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team, along with Rigoberto Urán. After arguably the most emotional week of his life and career, he played down his chances of success but refused to rule himself out of contention, explaining he will use the same opportunist or elastic strategy that lead him to win the world title.
“I think Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodríguez are the favourites for sure, they will try to win this race,” he said. “But Lombardia is such a hard race that you don't really fight with the other riders, you fight the course. Along with Liege-Bastogne-Liege it's the hardest race amongst the monuments.”
“I can't really compare with how I've performed in the past and I don't have much experience. I've ridden Lombardia twice but never finished and didn't ride last year. I don't even know this year's course, I haven't done recon an only seen the profile and map. My attack at the world championships wasn't planned, I was just at the front, saw an opportunity and in the end it was a good move. I think we will have to be similarly elastic tomorrow because anything can happen.”
Kwiatkowski is only 24. His pedigree is impressive and his all-round potential seems huge. But he is intelligently enough to know that he has to think about his long-term career. He has no plans to target the overall classification in Grand Tours for now even if he has shown potential with 11th in the 2013 Tour de France.
“In the last three years I've always improved and made big step forward in every kind of race. I hope to continue that way,” he explained.
“I think I had an incredible first part of the season and tried to prepare for the Tour de France as well as possible. But when you're 24 and don't know your body, you don't the best way to prepare. Ever rider is different and I need to find mine best way to do things. I didn’t do as well in this year's Tour de France as last year but I learnt a lot this year. I now know that maybe I should skip some races to more fresh.”
“We're already thinking of my (2015) race calendar and my future, but for the moment I'm only 24 and so I don't think it's the moment to test myself in Grand Tours. If I did, some people would say I'm not enough and don't have the experience. For now it's a learning process. I've taken big steps in the Classics but for the real progress in Grand Tours we've got to wait and grow up as a person and as a rider.”
Click here for a pictures of Michal Kwiatkowski's personalised Specialized S-Works Kwiato Tarmac.