Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) took a long swig from a can of soda given to him by his soigneur at the finish of stage 5 of Tirreno-Adriatico, perhaps trying to wash away his disappointment as well as re-hydrate after a difficult day in the saddle.
The young Polish rider started the 192km stage with a 16-second lead on Alberto Contador. He ended it more than six minutes behind the Tinkoff-Saxo team leader and slipped from first to 19th overall at 5:57.
"The plan was to defend the jersey, i was really motivated but you know, fighting against Alberto and Nairo (Quintana) is not an easy thing. I did my best," he said.
Kwiatkowski appeared to struggle on Saturday's finish to Selvarotonda but managed to hold not to Contador's tail. Despite trying to control the attacks with teammate Wout Poels and to some extent Rigoberto Uran early on during the 12.3km climb of the Passo Lanciano, he could do little to stop Contador from blowing Tirreno-Adriatico apart.
"On the bottom of Lanciano I was actually supported well from my teammate and I was feeling good," Kwiatkowski explained between drinks and pauses for thought.
"Today you know, Alberto and Nairo really went hard. I just exploded at one moment and couldn't go even at my own speed. Passo Lanciano was really hard for me. Then on the descent I couldn't even concentrate. It was hard to catch back, Rigo and Poels stayed with me but I was just finished. I couldn't go anymore."
Such a difficult day was a tough moment for Kwiatkowski, but also a day to learn a lot about his limits and about stage racing. He found the optimism to look to both the short term and long term future.
"For sure, every day I'm gaining experience," he said. "It's not a good day but it's not the last day in my career. We've still got two stages to go, we will try to do something."
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