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There’s apparently nothing that Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) cannot do.
The 23-year-old Polish rider has been on a tear all season long, posting six quality wins.
From his season-opening victory at the Mallorca Challenge in February to his impressive win Tuesday in the opening prologue at the Tour de Romandie, Kwiatkowski has proved yet again he can win on all terrain.
“This is a surprise,” Kwiatkowski said on winning just two days after placing third at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. “It’s something special to win here at Romandie.”
Kwiatkowski beat back some impressive rivals in the technical, 5.57-kilometer course, including taking five seconds on teammate and reigning world time trial champion Tony Martin. The victory also marks his first in a UCI WorldTour race.
Kwiatkowski’s been posting incredibly consistent and impressive results all season. He’s confirmed his chops in stage racing, beating back a challenge from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) to win the Volta ao Algarve in February, and finishing runner-up to Contador earlier this month at the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), arguably the hardest stage race behind the grand tours.
In one-day races, he’s equally lethal, winning Strade Bianche ahead of the likes of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). Across the Ardennes last week, he was fifth at Amstel Gold Race, and notched third-place podiums at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, his first monument podium.
“Last year was full of so many big surprises. I never dreamed I could finish 11th in my first Tour de France,” Kwiatkowski told VeloNews earlier this year. “Now I am even more confident, so let’s see how far I can go.”
That’s the question on everyone’s mind.
Kwiatkowski is confirming the promise he revealed last year, when he battled for the white jersey at the Tour and rode with panache across the Ardennes, performances that captured the attention of the wider public.
A junior prodigy when he locked horns with Sagan, Kwiatkowski seems destined for even bigger things in the coming years.
“Michal has big potential in many types of races,” said Omega Pharma’s sport and development manager Rolf Aldag. “He is still young and developing. We don’t have to push him too much; he is already very ambitious. That’s good to see in a young rider. He wants to work, and he wants to race.”
After Romandie, Kwiatkowski is due for a well-deserved break, with a return for the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France.
Following his big success last July, Kwiatkowski is taking aim at punching into the top 10, as well as battling for the white jersey.
Improving in both the longer climbs and against the clock, Kwiatkowski could develop into a legitimate Tour contender in the coming years.
“I am still trying to find my limits. I know I can do pretty well in GC. I still don’t have a lot of experience in the biggest races. This year I will have more support from the team,” Kwiatkowski said. “At some point in my career, I will have decide on what I want to do. That’s my good point, I am not such a bad rider in everything.”
Omega Pharma, Kwiatkowski’s home since 2012, knows it has a gem on its hands, and has him under contract through 2015.
For Kwiatkowski, the future is now, and he’s intent on trying to win every time he lines up to race.
“I’ve worked hard over the winter. This year, I want to be even better than last year,” he continued. “I am still learning, but I also want to perform well. I just love racing my bike. I don’t care if it’s sprints, echelons, time trials, I just want to race.”