The Etixx-Quick-Step boss says Kwiatkowski can win every classics race on the schedule, but a grand tour victory is out of his league
MILAN (VN) — Reigning world champion Michal Kwiatkowski won’t be wearing yellow on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. According to Etixx-Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere, he has the capacity to win all the classics, but not the Tour de France.
The Pole won his first race in the rainbow jersey on Sunday, the Amstel Gold Race in Valkenburg, the Netherlands. He is now taking aim at the remaining Ardennes classics, La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.
In 2014, Kwiatkowski placed fifth in Amstel and was third in both Flèche and Liège.
“With his legs, he can win them all. I just don’t think he is my Tour winner,” Lefevere told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.
“I think the overall in the Tour de France is too much. [Nairo] Quintana will always be better at climbing.
“[Kwiatkowski] can put together a great classics palmarès. To win in the Tour he has to lose six kilograms [13.2 pounds]. The question is whether his body will change or not, and if he loses his qualities as [a] time trialist doing so. It is especially important that we make the right choices with him.”
The 24-year-old won the 2014 Volta ao Algarve overall and in March, he won the opening prologue of Paris-Nice and placed second overall behind Sky’s Australian Richie Porte.
He finished 11th behind Brit Chris Froome (Sky) in the 2013 Tour de France. However, Lefevere took more men to support sprinter Mark Cavendish last year than he did for Kwiatkowski. Cavendish crashed and abandoned on stage 1, while Kwiatkowski had his ups and downs en route to a 28th-place finish.
“I made a big step forward in the classics,” Kwiatkowski said after his worlds win in Ponferrada, Spain.
“I still can’t say what’s possible in grand tours, but what can I say, it’s not yet time to check myself in grand tours, you need a lot of experience and to sacrifice the rest of your races to do that. For the moment, I like the classics.”
Lefevere’s team has dominated several of the world’s top races since its formation in 2003, but hasn’t been lucky in the grand tours. It tried to win the Tour with riders like American Levi Leipheimer, but so far has been unsuccessful.
The squad’s greatest grand tour talent now is Colombian Rigoberto Urán, who will race the Giro d’Italia from May 9-31. He is also penciled in to race the Tour with Kwiatkowski.
Kwiatkowski skipped the cobbled classics to focus on the Ardennes and the Tour this year. After Liège-Bastogne-Liège, he will race only the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse.
“[Kwiatkowski] can win them all: Milano-Sanremo, where he crashed this year, the Tour of Flanders to Paris-Roubaix,” Lefevere added.
“He rides as well as on the cobblestones as he does on the Ardennes climbs. Last year, he was also seventh in the famous Tour stage to Arenberg.
“We agreed this year to have him as the leader in the Ardennes classics because with [Tom] Boonen, [Niki] Terpstra, and [Zdenek] Stybar, we already had three leaders for the cobbled classics.”