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Sky’s Kwiatkowski: ‘I want to become a grand tour rider’

MILAN (VN) — Former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski plans to develop further in grand tours with the most successful team in the business, Sky. He joined the British outfit over the winter and says his role will first be the classics and then learning from Chris Froome.

Kwiatkowski will lead the team in the big one-day monuments Milano-Sanremo, Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Afterward and in the coming seasons, he wants to ride with Froome in the Tour de France.

“I believe that there is so much to achieve in the classics still, but of course, I’m thinking about one-week stage races and grand tours,” Kwiatkowski said in a Sky press release.

“What’s my role in the future? I can’t say but I want to become a grand tour rider. I came here to learn about myself and from the team — the tactical side, nutrition… To know how they do it and how they approach the Tour de France.”

The 25-year-old Pole has already achieved so much in his first years as a professional. He won the overall in the Volta ao Algarve, conquered Strade Bianche’s white gravel roads, added a classic victory with the Amstel Gold Race, and rode away for the world title in 2014.

“For sure that was an amazing feeling to win Amstel in the rainbow jersey. I’m happy with what I’ve achieved so far, that I could win the world championships, but it is already in the past and I’m trying to look forward,” Kwiatkowski explained.

“It’s one of my things to win a monument. I believe that I can use my experience in one-day races and give something to the team, I can do well in the classics in 2016.”

Sky signed Kwiatkowski with stage racing in mind as well. With Richie Porte now at BMC Racing, Kwiatkowski will fill an important gap in the team that includes stage race stars Mikel Landa, Geraint Thomas, and Froome.

Kwiatkowski raced the last four years with Etixx – Quick-Step, where he placed high in several stage races: second in Paris-Nice, second in Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), fourth in Tirreno-Adriatico, and 11th in the Tour de France. With the right tweaks on a team known for its marginal gains, Kwiatkowski could flower into a stage racing star.

“If you look at the races I almost won, I lost them to climbing. That’s the way that I can improve to achieve more in cycling, with Tim Kerrison we can work on that,” said Kwiatkowski, who has been working with the team’s trainer for over two months.

“There’s a lot of space to improve. Of course, joining Team Sky, I know that I can learn a lot from a rider like Chris Froome. It’d be amazing to be a part of the Tour de France team riding next to him.”

Kwiatkowski’s former team manager, however, thinks grand tours may be too much.

“I’ve figured it out, he’s not a classification rider,” Etixx’s Patrick Lefevere told VeloNews in July. “Maybe he doesn’t agree with this, he still has his mind to try it.”

However, Kwiatkowski made the switch to Sky with his mind on improving.

“I’ve been pro since 2010 and I think that I’ve improved each year. I decided to move forward, join the best team in the world, Team Sky. There’s no improvements when you don’t want to change environments,” Kwiatkowski said.

“They achieved so much in such a short history: Chris won the Tour de France twice, Brad Wiggins once. I spoke to David Brailsford, I know their marginal gains approach, the quality of the staff, everything together creates the best team in the world. I’m suited for this environment.”

Kwiatkowski will begin racing in Sky’s black and blue colors in the Challenge Mallorca on January 28. He is then scheduled to race in the Volta ao Algarve, Paris-Nice, Milano-Sanremo, Flanders, Amstel Gold Race, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Tour de Romandie, the Critérium du Dauphiné, and, as he said, “hopefully the Tour de France.”