Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) continued Tuesday where he left off last year and raised the question of what’s next. Yesterday, the 23-year-old, in his white and red Polish champion’s jersey, won the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana in Mallorca, backing up an impressive 2013 campaign.
Last season, Kwiatkowski led Tirreno-Adriatico for one day and placed fourth behind some important grand tour riders: Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome, and Alberto Contador. Joaquím Rodríguez and Chris Horner were right behind. He rode free at the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) for 100 kilometers and briefly held on when Fabian Cancellara attacked on the Oude Kwaremont. He continued through the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne, placing fourth and fifth. Topping off 2013, he wore the best young rider’s jersey for 10 days and finished 11th overall in the Tour de France.
“I’ve been watching him since he was 17 years old,” Omega Pharma general manager Patrick Lefevere told VeloNews in December. “I’m convinced that he is one of the best riders in the world.”
Prior to joining Omega Pharma in 2012, Kwiatkowski rode a year each for Caja Rural and RadioShack. He impressed Lefevere so much in his first year that Omega Pharma offered the Pole a contract extension halfway through his first deal.
Kwiatkowski picking up where 2013 left off
Kwiatkowski was in good company on a chilly day yesterday in Mallorca. Omega Pharma protected him until the finish climb, where he followed an attack by one of Sky’s grand tour domestiques, Sergio Henao. They caught the leaders and, as the road shot downward in the final six kilometers, Kwiatkowski attacked for victory.
“I know the descent really well, so for me it was an advantage,” he said in a press release. “I arrived alone and it is super nice when you can raise your arms in the sky for the win. It’s a great feeling and I am very happy about it.”
With just two days at home between training camps and other engagements, Kwiatkowski said the off-season passed quickly and that he hopes to take up where he left off at the Tour.
“I am really motivated,” he said. “Everything worked well during the winter and training camps, so I am also motivated because I am healthy and happy about my job. … I am looking forward to the next races in 2014 with big morale, and when you can start with a good victory it is even better.”
What is next? Though he faces some serious competition, Kwiatkowski has the makings to win a stage or the overall in the Volta ao Algarve or Tirreno-Adriatico, or an Ardennes classic. After Mallorca, he will start Algarve, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), and the Ardennes classics. This year, he is skipping the cobbled classics like Flanders, focusing instead on the hilly one-day races where he found success in 2013.
“He’s making a huge progression in 2014,” Lefevere said. “He’s one of the best riders. The problem is that he can ride well at the start at the year and he can do it in the grand tours. If it’s my choice, we have to speak about it, but I’d like him to race a little bit less and decide on goals. So far, he wants to ride everything, Milano-Sanremo, Tirreno, Flanders, Ardennes, the Tour. … In cycling, it’s good to focus on one or two goals in the year, three maybe, but not more.”
For Kwiatkowski, one of those goals is the Tour de France. After last year’s ride, and with Rigoberto Urán aiming at the Giro d’Italia, the next logical step for the Polish breakout rider is to roll inside the top 10 in Paris.