RODEZ, France (VN) — Michal Kwiatkowski showed the rainbow stripes of his world champion’s jersey Thursday en route to the Plateau de Beille finish, but it was not enough. The Pole, still 25 years old, admits that he has a lot to learn before his “likely” transfer to Team Sky.
“I’m here for a stage win,” he told VeloNews. “I’ll come back here one year and try for the overall.”
Etixx-Quick-Step’s Kwiatkowski escaped Thursday into a deluge and rode solo in his white jersey with the rainbow bands until Spaniard Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) overtook him for the stage win.
As he dried off after the stage, he knew that was a chance to score his first win in the Tour, but also that he had not had the best lead-up to the Grande Boucle. Maybe he would have already won a stage, like teammates Tony Martin, Zdenek Stybar, and Mark Cavendish, if he had come to France with fresher legs.
Kwiatkowski said that he thinks he raced too much in the early season to be able to compete against the riders that were preparing specifically for the Tour de France.
“It was not the team’s decision, it was ours,” he said. “You’d think I’d learn my lesson from 2014, but I didn’t.”
If you think brilliance is lacking, it is not. Riding in the red and white colors of team Poland, he attacked on the final climb and rode free on the descent to Ponferrada in northwest Spain to win the worlds in September. The ride was risky, but well-received for its bravado.
Team Etixx’s general manager Patrick Lefevere was quick to raise his glass and toast Kwiatkowski’s win. He did so again when he placed second behind Sky’s Riche Porte in Paris-Nice this March and attacked to win the Amstel Gold Race in April.
Kwiatkowski may not have lifted his arms on the Plateau de Beille, but he is improving quickly in stage races. An eventual stage win in the Tour would not be a surprise, but a confirmation of the star that many have already pointed out in the sky.
“I won’t be disappointed if he comes away without a stage win, but I hope for him that he wins a stage,” Lefevere in his low and calming voice.
“When a world champion wins a stage of the Tour de France, it’s always beautiful. It means we saw him good at the start of the season, in the Amstel Gold Race, and with a stage here, that means that he’s been a really nice world champion.”
The win would cap his four-year run in Lefevere’s team. Kwiatkowski’s agent Giuseppe Acquadro told VeloNews that his rider is “likely” joining Sky in 2016. With that team, he can develop and decide where he wants to focus his energies.
Much was made of his 11th place in the 2013 Tour, but both Kwiatkowski and Lefevere believe it is best to wait before turning attention to grand tours.
“I’ve figured it out; he’s not a classification rider,” Lefevere said. “Maybe he doesn’t agree with this. He still has his mind to try it, but he’s only 25. He should wait two years.”
Kwiatkowski would lead Sky in smaller stage races and the one-day Ardennes classics, along with Geraint Thomas. If he wins a stage in the next eight days at the Tour, and if the trade rumors are true, it would make his transfer that much sweeter for Sky.