While a number of more experienced climbers faltered on the slopes to Mirador del Potrero on stage 3 of the Tour de San Luis, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) pulled out a hugely surprising ride to finish third.
The 22-year-old is now into his second year with Patrick Lefevre's team and although he has always been earmarked as a promising time triallist, he has never shone in the mountains. However after a winter dedicated to improvements in his climbing he produced a performance that has thrown him squarely into the frame for the overall podium.
"I've trained a lot to improve my shape on the climbs because I know that it's my weakest point. I've been getting better and thankfully it's worked. I've trained really hard at my climbing over the winter and it's paid off," he told Cyclingnews at the finish.
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) and a host of grand tour specialists all faltered on the climb to Mirador del Potrero but when the lead group thinned out to less than a dozen riders Kwiatkowski was still in contention. He marked several moves and patiently followed wheels before kicking for the line.
"I was just trying to stay at my tempo. I'm not a born climber so I stuck to my pace and then I waited for the final 300 meters before trying my arm in the sprint."
Now third in GC and with a 19.2km time trial to come Kwiatkowski is in the frame for a high position overall. However, even if he produces another quality ride in the time trial he will have to prove that his performance to Mirador del Potrero was no fluke, with two more mountain stages in this year's race.
"I'm good in the TT but it's too early to talk about the general classification. I've trained well over the winter but this is going to be the first time trial of the season so it's hard to predict."
"I'll do my best and we'll see. There's Sylvain Chavanel for the time trial too. I want to thank him and Pieter Serry because they stayed with me today. Also Cavendish and Trentin helped me earlier on in the stage. The team were fantastic."
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