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Kwiatkowski looking forward to restart season with the Olympics

After illness and a crash scuttled his 2016 plans, former world champ Michal Kwiatkowski looks to Rio Olympics for redemption.

MILAN (VN) — Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski is “looking forward” to getting his season back on track, starting with the Olympics road race Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, after health issues slowed him down.

The 2014 world champion will form part of the Polish four-man team for Saturday’s road race along with star Rafal Majka (Tinkoff). Majka, who won the mountains jersey in the Tour de France for a second time this year, can climb with the best. Kwiatkowski climbs well and sprints strongly. They will lead the team with support from Kwaitkowski’s Sky teammate Michal Golas and Majka’s Tinkoff compatriot Maciej Bodnar.

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“I reconned the Olympics last year. It’s a very hard race, but the Olympics are always difficult to predict what will happen,” Kwiatkowski said.

“I think together with Rafal Majka and Michal Golas and Maciej Bodnar, we can have great race.”

The race takes in the early Grumari circuits and then heads three times up the 8.9-kilometer Chinesa climb before its finish at Copacabana Beach.

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Portugal’s Rui Costa (Lampre – Merida) are favorites. Kwiatkowski has not had the best health in the lead-up, but he is one of cycling’s best one-day cyclists with wins in the worlds, the Amstel Gold Race, and this spring, the E3 Harelbeke. He is going off at 2000 to win.

“For sure, we are going to go for the strongest guy. I think Rafal Majka is feeling well after the Tour de France and he’s capable of having a great result there,” Kwiatkowski said. “I’ve prepared a lot to have a great race in Rio, but this season hasn’t gone how I wanted. I’m going to give my best for sure.”

Kwiatkowski, 26, signed a two-year contract with team Sky last winter. He immediately paid back the faith by winning in the E3 Harelbeke cobbled classic in March against world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).

The rest of the one-day classics through Liège-Bastogne-Liège did not go as he had hoped and in the Critérium du Dauphiné, where he was hoping to earn selection for the Tour de France, he fell sick. Instead, in July, he raced the Tour of Poland at home and crashed.

“I trained hard before the Tour of Poland, but it didn’t go how I wanted. I crashed on the crucial stage, which was a pity because I couldn’t test myself in the final weekend in Poland,” he added. “I trained well. I don’t have any injuries from this bad crash in Poland. I trained well in the south of Poland before San Sebastián.”

After the Olympics, he could make Sky’s nine-man roster to support Chris Froome in the Vuelta a España.

“I’m thinking about doing the Vuelta a España, it’d be wonderful to do a grand tour this year. I’ve never done the Vuelta so let’s hope my health and shape will be enough to go there.

“I had a couple of bad moments this season, but that’s sport, I can’t … Sometimes, I don’t have influence over my health. I had some great memories from the first part of the season, and some bad, it’s a pity that I couldn’t go with the plans that I had on paper, but that’s behind me now, and I’m looking forward, that’s important.”