Having missed time due to illness at the start of the season, Michal Kwiatkowski believes he is getting back to full fitness ahead of the Classics season
He will race San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Last year, he won the Amstel Gold Race in his rainbow jersey.
“I’m one of the leaders [in Sky], and I want to prove sooner or later that I’m able to win in the Classics or stage races,” he told Cycling Weekly. He repeated it so it was clear. “I’m one of the leaders.”
He should be, too. The 25-year-old already achieved so much in his first years as a professional. He won Algarve and conquered Strade Bianche’s white gravel roads in 2014, and scooped two big one-day wins with the 2014 worlds title and the 2015 Amstel Gold Race.
Sky signed him with the classics and stage racing in mind. In the classics, he fills an important gap with Geraint Thomas more focused on stage races and in the week-long stage races, he takes up the slack that Richie Porte left when joining BMC this winter.
We talked to Michal Kwiatkowski ahead of the season in Mallorca
In Tirreno-Adriatico – which cuts through Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo and Marche this week – he leads with Poels. The Dutchman won the Volta a Valenciana last month.
“It depends how the race is going to go. Until now we are both together in the front and not losing any time, so it’s always better to have two cards to play,” Kwiatkowski added.
“It was a pity that I was sick before Algarve because I couldn’t compete over there. I always love to start the season there. After yesterday, though, I feel that I’m on schedule. I didn’t have a great feeling in Strade Bianche, but the team time trial and [stage two] give me more optimism for the upcoming races and even here in Tirreno.”
In the undulating stage won by Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) on Thursday in Pomarance, Kwiatkowski finished in the main group of favourites in ninth. It was a confidence boost. “Yes, of course. You know, I think I’ve trained very well this winter. And I’m in pretty good shape. I’m calm approaching the Ardennes.”
Sky will rally the group around Kwiatkowski for most of the classics since Thomas is only parachuting in for a select few races. Sports director Servais Knaven told Cycling Weekly over the winter that Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard can learn from him.
“Of course, with Kwiatkowski, we have someone who won the Amstel Gold Race,” Knaven said “He knows how to do it! He has the talent. He was world champion, he’s one of the only riders in the team who’s won a big one-day race in the past. That doesn’t mean he’s going to win again next year, but he has the potential. That’s good for the whole group in my eyes.”