Peter Sagan (Cannondale) dominates the headlines but another star is rising. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), also part of the 1990 class and winner at the Challenge Mallorca on Tuesday, looks just as potent.
“They are two great riders,” Omega sports director, Davide Bramati told Cycling Weekly. “They’ve been facing each other since they were young, and I hope that Michal’s one of the best riders in the next years with Peter.”
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Like the Slovak star, Kwiatkowski was born in 1990, five months later and 500 kilometres north in Poland. They faced each other regularly as amateurs. In 2008, Sagan won one Nations Cup and Kwiatkowski two. Andy Fenn won one as well, the juniors’ Paris-Roubaix.
Kwiatkowski and Sagan went to the Junior Worlds that year in Cape Town. They both had off days in the road race. However, the 18-year-old Pole won the time trial title by five seconds over German Jakob Steigmiller and eight over USA’s Taylor Phinney.
Sagan signed for Liquigas/Cannondale and immediately started winning. Kwiatkowski rode for Caja Rural and RadioShack before joining Omega Pharma in 2012. He made an impression. After his first year, General Manager Patrick Lefevere extended his originally two-year contract.
“We saw two years ago in the Giro d’Italia that he was going well,” Bramati said. “He was young, only 21, and he finished it off with an 11th place in the last time trial. And had he still had space for improvement, which he showed last year.”
Kwiatkowski placed fourth in Tirreno-Adriatico last year behind Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. Joaquím Rodríguez and Chris Horner placed fifth and sixth. He stormed through the classics. He spent all day in an escape at the Tour of Flanders and placed fourth in Amstel Gold and fifth in Flèche Wallonne. Then the Tour de France.
Bramati said, “Everyone thought that he’d just work for Mark Cavendish on the flats but he finished 11th overall.”
Bramati explained that this year, Kwiatkowski should win a big race. He already won the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana at the Challenge Mallorca.
“He can win a stage race like Tirreno. He was fourth last year, just 53 seconds behind Nibali. That’s not a big difference.”
Next week, he starts Volta ao Algarve, where he finished second last year behind team-mate Tony Martin. He races Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, País Vasco, the Ardennes Classics, the Tour de Switzerland or the Critérium du Dauphiné and then the Tour de France.
“Why not try for the top ten at the Tour de France this year? He’s young. He’s fast, last year he was in the top four two or there times. Trying for the classification, he will also have his chances to win a stage.”
Bramati said Kwiatkowski already improved his time trialling and that the only thing he needs to better is climbing fast and long climbs. He added, “but he’s young and has time.”
If he continues to improve as he did in 2013, Kwiatkowski could be making just as many headlines as Sagan.
More early-season success for Omega Pharma-QuickStep as Michal Kwiatkowski wins third day of Mallorca Challenge