Omega Pharma-Quick Step switches gears from the cobblestones to the Ardennes this weekend with the intention of keeping the ball rolling.
Following its dramatic victory in Paris-Roubaix on Sunday with Niki Terpstra, the pavé specialists have stepped aside for the leaner climbers. Leading the team will be Polish sensation Michal Kwiatkowski.
“I like all three. I still need to progress a lot at Liège, because I’ve only done it twice,” Kwiatkowski said Wednesday in an interview. “Last year, I felt very good at Amstel and Flèche, but I was tired at Liège, and I couldn’t really challenge for it. [Liège] is a monument, so it would be great to challenge against the best. In principal, I will challenge for all three.”
Last year, Kwiatkowski was one of the revelations in the Ardennes, riding to fourth at Amstel Gold Race and fifth at Flèche Wallonne. The 23-year-old has been on a tear so far this season and wants to keep the momentum going across the Ardennes classics, which click into gear Sunday at Amstel Gold.
He skipped racing on the pavé, instead choosing to race at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), where only an on-form Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) could beat him.
“I love racing the Flemish classics, but, with the lineup Omega Pharma has for these races, I don’t think they missed me,” he said. “I think it was a good move to skip the cobblestones. After Tirreno I was optimistic, and I did specific training for the Ardennes. Last year, I wasn’t sure of my form … but this year, I am confident that things are going well for the Ardennes.”
Kwiatkowski has been prolific since the start of the 2014 season, winning in his debut at the Mallorca Challenge. He then won two stages and the overall at the Volta ao Algarve, knocking back a challenge from Contador to claim his first professional stage race title. He then beat Peter Sagan (Cannondale), his nemesis since their junior days, at Strade Bianche.
Things were going well at Tirreno, with Omega Pharma winning the opening team time trial, but he faltered and finished a disappointing 18th. He rebounded with a strong performance at the Basque Country and is ready to challenge for victory in the Ardennes.
Kwiatkowski is ambitious, and will return to the Tour de France later this summer with GC aspirations as well.
“I don’t know how far I can go, but I want to be the best, and I will work hard to get there,” he said. “Last year, I was 11th, so I will return to try to fight for the GC. But you never know, it will only be my second Tour. I learned a lot last year, and to be up front in all the key stages will be my objective. Also, to help Cav [Mark Cavendish], which is another big goal for the team.”
After the Ardennes, he will skip Tour de Romandie, take a break, and regroup for the Tour, with the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Polish national championships slated before the race through France. This year, he’ll return to the Tour of Poland, with ambitions of winning his national tour.