Michal Kwiatkowski: future world champion?

Could Tour of Britain leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) win the rainbow jersey in Ponferrada?

Could 2014 Tour of Britain leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) be a dark horse for the world road race championships in Ponferrada in two weeks’ time?

The 24 year-old Pole comfortably defended his lead at the Tour of Britain on stage five from Exmouth to Exeter on Thursday.

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Not only does he look good for the yellow jersey in London on Sunday but he seems to be coming into a rich vein of form ahead of the worlds road race on Sunday September 28.

“Favourite is a big word, you know?” Kwiatkowski said of the world championships at the finish in Exeter. “Because in the history of Polish cycling; I think we’ve just had one silver medal. I don’t know which year it was. After that we were always somewhere there, but never as a favourite.”

Zbigniew Spruch was the rider, and he did so in 2000 behind Latvia’s Romans Vainsteins in Plouay, France. However the course this year in Spain could suit Kwiatkowski’s talents, with two relatively short climbs on a 18.2km circuit to be tackled 14 times over a total distance of 254.8km.

Kwiatkowski showed his finishing speed on Wednesday’s stage into Bristol with a blistering kick past Nicolas Roche, Jack Bauer and Albert Timmer to take the stage and the overall race lead.

He’s only 24, but the Pole’s record in the one-day classics isn’t too bad either; he won the Strade Bianche ahead of Peter Sagan this spring, which has a tough, grippy and hilly parcours through Tuscany.

He also impressively finished third at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, third at La Fleche Wallonne, and fifth at Amstel Gold.

“It [the Worlds] is a classic, and I think I’ve made big steps forward in the classics, so why not use this to be there and fight,” he added. “I like classics. For sure I will try to do something.”

Kwiatkowski confirmed he will skip the world championships time trial four days earlier in order to prepare for the road race, a departure from last season when he also found himself touted as one to watch.

“Last year I was in good form before the world championships but during the worlds I didn’t feel so great,” he added. “Somebody put me as favourite as well, last year, but I couldn’t even finish the race.”

Kwiatkowski finds himself at the vanguard of a small blossoming of Polish cycling talent. Przemyslaw Niemiec recently won a stage of the Vuelta while Rafal Majka was the revelation of this year’s Tour de France.

The team has qualified the maximum of nine riders for the road race by virtue of having sat eighth in the WorldTour rankings on August 15, ahead of Great Britain in ninth.

It’s a fact not lost on Kwiatkowski and, with pressure on the traditional nations of Italy, Belgium, France and home team Spain, Poland could well benefit by slipping under the radar.

“This year we’re going to have nine riders there, which of course that’s going to be good for us,” he added.

“I’m not confident, but I have to see myself being up there and fighting for the result. Polish cycling is getting bigger and bigger, so I believe I can represent Polish cycling very well.”

Michal Kwiatkowski in the rainbow stripes? It’s a long shot, perhaps. But the Pole could just be the thinking man’s 2014 world champion.