Kwiatkowski heads to Liege on a high

23 Apr 2022

Kwiatkowski heads to Liege on a high

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2022 has been a year of contrasting emotions for Michal Kwiatkowski.

In early February he caught COVID, throwing his early-season schedule out of the window. He returned at the UAE Tour and raced Milan San Remo, but was already playing catch up. Then illness three days into Volta a Catalunya was another blow for the Pole. Three weeks later he lined up at the start of Amstel Gold, unsure how he would fare.

Six hours, one minute and 19 seconds later, he’d won it.

“It was super emotional,” explains Kwiato. “I’d been sick, then my wife and daughter got sick, and I was in a terrible place. Yet I never gave up. I always tried to push and do whatever I could to be competitive and useful to the team. So to win was just incredible. I’ve won ‘bigger’ races but I’ve never been as emotional as after Amstel. I know how many sacrifices we - my family and I - made to get to that position.”

Every season Kwiatkowski tries to plot the best course to the Ardennes Classics, looking to peak for tomorrow’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He’s often described it as the race of his dreams. Yet this year, after everything that had happened, he just wanted to enjoy what remained of the Classics heading into April.

“I didn’t really care about a specific race. I came here without pressure, I just wanted to improve race-to-race and help the team as best I could. I’ve been asked that a lot already: ‘Is Liege the main goal?’ But I promise I didn’t have a main goal. The goal was just to win races with this team, and have fun along the way. It was just a huge relief to be back with the boys and on schedule.

“And now of course, it is Liege. The final one. I’m excited. It’s a race I love and we have had three wins so far. We’re all in a really good mood and we’re so motivated.

“My shape could be slightly better but it’s not something I’m thinking about. In the team we say ‘All In’ this season but for me, on Sunday, it’s going to be about getting it all out. I don’t believe you have to be 100% to win the biggest bike races. There are so many circumstances and everything has to come together in that one day - shape is just one factor.

“I just want to race and see how it is on the road, see how the boys are. We don’t care who the leader is on paper - that’s not racing. It’s all about getting everything out on the road. That’s what we will do at Liege.”
Those three wins for the team - Amstel, Brabantse Pijl and Paris-Roubaix - mark the finest week in the team’s Classics history and Kwiatkowski was at the heart of them all.

“I had completely different emotions through the week. As soon as I arrived I could feel the spirit through the team. We were all talking about having the numbers in the final and doing the right thing and the execution of the plan was incredible. It’s a relatively new team for me, racing with Ben Turner and Magnus Sheffield, but I had the feeling that I’d raced with those guys for ages already. We understood each other.
Michal Kwiatkowski

Michal Kwiatkowski

We started with that mood and then we just didn’t stop.
“We started with that mood and then we just didn’t stop. I couldn’t recover in time for Wednesday — I couldn’t sleep after Amstel. It just felt like something else. But then those young lads went for it in Brabantse, smashing the other teams, executing the plan to perfection again. Seeing Magnus riding away from that selective group was just great.

“We celebrated big time. Those guys worked for me and Tom [Pidcock] in Amstel but then they realised at Brabantse that we are all capable of winning the races. It was amazing for such a young guy in Magnus, and for Ben too. We were really happy and that allowed us to keep that morale and momentum into Roubaix. For that race, you need that spirit.

“And Roubaix… Roubaix was something else. The execution of the plan, the spirit in the bus before the race, the meetings, the general plan, the race day itself when we split the bunch almost without trying to. Everyone was on it. In one moment I though we had a disaster when I crashed, Dylan [Van Baarle] had a puncture, Pippo [Ganna] had a puncture, there was so much going on, but we never really lost that motivation and spirit. We always believed that you have to be focused for seven hours and go for it, no matter what.

“The moment when Pippo accelerated on the Arenberg and the group started to reduce, I started to feel I wasn’t 100%, and I could see Dylan was just cruising. We realised he was the man for the day. When I was out of the race after doing what I could and when I heard he had won the race, I cried on the bike for the first time ever. I couldn’t believe it. All those efforts, the spirit that we had together, and then the bad luck we’d had in the race… we still managed to win.

“Dylan is such a professional guy, always working hard… it made me cry. I went straight to him after I crossed the line and I was crying full gas. I was so happy. You know how hard it is to get everything right in that race. In one second everything can be a disaster.

“But he did it. It was just amazing.”