There was a moment in last year’s Tour de France that perhaps tells us a lot about the young Polish rider, Michal Kwiatkowski. It came during the dramatic crosswinds stage from Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond, won eventually by Mark Cavendish.
With 30km to go, Kwiatkowski, who had recently been back to the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team car to collect bottles, was well positioned as the peloton began to splinter under pressure applied at the front by Saxo-Tinkoff.
As the Saxo riders massed at the front, the front group started to fracture. A small gap opened a couple of places in front of Kwiatkowski. Cavendish was sitting behind his team-mate and any split in front of him now was a disaster; in the memorable description he offered later, he said it was like standing on cracking ice — he had only a few seconds to rectify the situation and find safety.
It was Kwiatek, as Cavendish’s team-mate is known, who came to the rescue. The Pole turned, saw Cavendish behind him, and stuck his hand out. Cavendish grabbed it and, madison-style, pulled for all he was worth. The hand-sling catapulted him past Kwiatkowski and into the fourteen-man front group: he was safe.
Kwiatkowski, however, was not. In saving Cavendish he sacrificed himself. The manoeuvre cost him any chance of staying with the leaders and he headed the chasing group, rolling in 16th and over a minute down. In Paris two weeks later he finished 11th overall. According to his team director, Brian Holm, that and other selfless acts over the three weeks: “cost him a place in the top ten, for sure.”
Read the rest of the interview in Cycle Sport May, out now. Also in the May issue: Wiggo's American dream, Tour contenders in Oman, classic Classics from recent times, why San Remo is special for the Brits, Ellen van Dijk, Specialized Venge, Condor Super Acciaio. Cycle Sport is available in the shops and can be downloaded to your tablet via iTunes (opens in new tab), Google Play and Zinio.
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