Kwiatkowski draws closer to Tour of Britain win

The 24-year-old Polish rider hopes to stamp his season with a GC victory

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MILAN (VN) — Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is closing in on the Tour of Britain overall win and is continuing to prove he is a star in the making.

“This is only my second race back from my long break after the Tour de France,” Kwiatkowski said. “I can time trial and I should be ready for [the overall win].”

The overall win would bookend the 24-year-old Polish rider’s strong season nicely after having begun with a GC victory at the Volta ao Algarve. Of course, along the way he won the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana at the Challenge Mallorca, Strade Bianche ahead of Peter Sagan (Cannondale), and the Tour de Romandie prologue time trial. He also placed second overall in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), third at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and was fifth at the Amstel Gold Race.

Kwiatkowski currently holds a 3-second lead over Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF) and a 14-second gap over Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) and Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) at the Tour of Britain.

His only shortfall this season is that he failed to back up his 11th-place finish from the 2013 Tour de France at this year’s edition. He finished 28th overall, and third in the best young rider classification.

Team boss Patrick Lefevere did not want to put so much pressure on his shoulders and instead built the team around sprinter Mark Cavendish, who had to abandon the Tour due to a crash in stage 1. Regardless, Lefevere saw his rising star race with aggression and try to make up for lost time on the Belles Filles stage.

“I tried, but I failed,” Kwiatkowski said on the day he attacked to try to close the four-minute-deficit to the yellow jersey. “It didn’t work.”

The Tour de France’s yellow jersey might have been too big of a bite for Kwiatkowski to chew, but with the performances and victories he has banked in his palmarès this year, he appears to be progressing in the right direction.

“I can’t compare myself to Alberto Contador or Chris Froome,” he added. “I’m on another level and I’m looking at my own progression.”

Lefevere is convinced with the direction Kwiatkowski is heading. He extended his contract, which runs through 2015 when the team becomes Etixx-Quick Step, and hired another Polish helping hand, Lukasz Wisniowski.

“Kwiatkowski is a real talent,” Lefevere said in April. “The amateur ranks, he was even taking on Peter Sagan. I’m very pleased with him so far, and since his contract ended this season, we rewarded him with an extension.”

Before this season ends, though, Kwiatkowski has the Tour of Britain to finish and the world championships on his radar. He placed second ahead of Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) on the uphill finish of stage 3 Tuesday and won the fourth stage a day later to take the race lead. Just the 8.8-kilometer time trial in London Sunday morning remains the major obstacle between him and the overall win.

The overall win would build his confidence for the Ponferrada worlds, but Kwiatkowski downplayed any chance of a rainbow jersey.

“The worlds is a classic, which I like, so why not try,” he said Thursday. “But someone said I was a favorite last year and I didn’t even finish the race.”

After the worlds, Lefevere and the team will talk with Kwiatkowski about his 2015 plans. His program will likely include a mix of smaller stage races like Algarve and Britain, the Ardennes Classics, and another shot at the Tour de France.

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