Early GC time gaps don't make much difference to eventual Tour de France podium, argues Ineos' Michał Kwiatkowski

The Polish super domestique says the British team were prepared to spend more energy early to keep GC riders safe, but even that can prove insufficient at the Tour de France

Geraint Thomas
(Image credit: Getty)

Michał Kwiatkowski thanked journalists for holding an umbrella above him, a couple of raindrops starting to fall on the Ineos Grenadiers' stalwart, and while the inclusion of even a whiff of pathetic fallacy is more disagreeable than the French coffee served at the hotels to the peloton as it makes its way through the Tour de France, the foreshadowing from the Polish rider before the start of yesterday's stage three was precise.

"I always believe anything can be beneficial if you do the right thing. Even today, we will have some rain at the end, probably by the end of the day. Whatever, we just want to be on the right side, anytime, doesn't matter if it's winds, mountains or the time trial, just hopefully we can gain time or [at least] not lose time on those stages. So we're just focusing on doing the right thing today."

The Polish rider was talking about how his team planned to shepherd Geraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz through this tricky opening week of the Tour, and on stage three they found themselves on the wrong side of things, Thomas needing his shoulder popped back in after a crash and having to chase five minutes back up to the peloton.

"Fingers crossed, they go through the tricky opening week of the Tour de France without a scratch. That's the main objective, five seconds here or there, It doesn't make any difference at the moment, in my opinion."

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Before the start of stage three, Carapaz and Thomas were already trailing Pogačar and Roglič by 20 seconds or so, but by the end of the day Carapaz had edged ahead of the other three favourites for the yellow jersey, proving Kwiatkowski's thoughts about early time gaps correct, as Pogačar and Thomas finished in the group behind, 20 seconds in arrears, Roglič even further back after his crash inside the final 10km.

Kwiatkowski then pushed back against the notion that Richie Porte and Tao Geoghegan Hart losing time on the first two days makes his and Ineos' job any easier, having to focus on just two GC candidates now, and would prefer if they were in the top four of the overall.

"I would like to see them not losing time. If they lost time because of the crashes on the first day, that's the bad side of it. The good side is they don't have massive injuries and that's the most important thing. I would like to see them, first, second, third and fourth in the GC at the moment, but this is the opening weekend of the Tour de France," he told Cycling Weekly.

"It doesn't make it easier at all, anything still can happen...sometimes it's just an elimination race, and we don't want to eliminate any guys that way. I just want to see the whole team in the front safely and not losing time. That means that we're doing the right thing."

On stage two, the Ineos Grenadiers could be spotted at the front of proceedings up the Mûr-de-Bretagne, burning Porte and Geoghegan Hart, who had already lost time on the first day, in order to keep Thomas and Carapaz out of trouble. This tactic is a balanced choice between trying to keep them out of the way of crashes or splits behind, but at the cost of using extra energy they may need later in the race,

"The tactic is just to make sure that everybody's safe even though we spend a little bit more energy than maybe we should," Kwiatkowski explained. "It's opening weekend, it's all about surviving and avoiding crashes."

As for what he's seen of Pogačar and Roglič so far, Kwiatkowski thinks they look good, but says in tomorrow's time trial and then the first mountains we'll see just where everyone is at in this race.

"They seems to be in really good shape. But the Tour de France is three weeks long, let's see how the legs are of the main contenders on the mountains, and on the first time trial, they are the crucial stages for the GC guys."

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.