Free Climbing – Kasia Niewiadoma’s rise to the top

Despite two years passing since the last running of Amstel Gold Race, the day is easy to remember. Yes, there was Mathieu van der Poel’s breathless, draw dropping victory, but a couple of hours earlier Kasia Niewiadoma had set the Cauberg alight with a stunning, tense win.

Having tested the water the previous lap, Niewiadoma dropped Marianne Vos the last time up the Dutch race’s signature climb, before the most nail-biting final kilometre.  Behind the Canyon-SRAM rider Annemiek van Vleuten was closing in, metre by agonising metre with each revolution of a massive gear.

But Niewiadoma gritted her teeth. With 25m to go, she looked around for the first time, raised her arms, and won by the slimmest of margins and with the biggest of smiles.

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That finish was a physical manifestation of how she describes her attitude to racing to Cycling Weekly. “There’s no mercy, there’s no giving anything away or trying to be polite, it’s about achieving something you really want,” she says.

The Polish rider has good memories from the hills of Limburg. She finished 11th on the same finish during the final stage of the 2013 Boels Ladies Tour, where she was 10th on GC and best young rider. At 18 years old riding as a trainee for Rabobank-Liv Giant, she placed in the top 25 in each of the six stages, ahead of many more experienced competitors.

“You could see she had some good qualities but needed to work on her skills on the bike,” says then team manager Koos Moerenhout, who worked with Niewiadoma until the end of 2016. “She was a very good addition to the team, she was enthusiastic, willing to learn, and on the climbs you could tell she had something exceptional.

Kasia Niewiadoma: Photography by Thomas Maheux

“She was a bit like an iron lady, if you told her to run through a concrete wall she would do it, she would never give in. That was her strength.”

Katarzyna Niewiadoma grew up in a small village near Limanowa in the mountains of southern Poland, half way between Kraków and the Slovak border.

“As a young person you always want to go exploring the world and meeting people whose world is completely different to yours,” she tells us. Though she wanted to ride with her dad and older brother, as a child she has no clue cycling would allow her to explore the world. However, when she and her dad finally convinced her mother the sport was safe there was no going back.

Read the full interview with Kasia Niewiadoma in the April 22 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine. On sale in the shops and online if you’re staying in. If you want to read pro interview, race previews, fitness features and product reviews each week you can subscribe to the magazine and save on the cover price.