Road

Kwiatkowski targets Ardennes classics for victory in rainbow stripes

The reigning world champion wants to notch his first win of the year in the rainbow jersey

MILAN (VN) — Pole Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick-Step) is going to the Ardennes classics this week to win and to win big, and he wants to take his first victory in the world champion rainbow jersey.

He will line up in all three classics: the Amstel Gold Race this Sunday, the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, and the most famous one, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, on Sunday, April 26.

“You always must have big ambitions to progress. Hopefully my condition is good enough to be competitive with the other favorites. It is difficult, especially with the rainbow jersey, but I never give up,” Kwiatkowski said in a press release.

“It’s tricky to win a race with the rainbow jersey, it’s not easy. But to be clear, I’m going for the win, not for a second place.”

The 24-year-old has historically performed well in the Ardennes classics. In 2013, he rode to fourth in Amstel and fifth in Flèche; in 2014, he took fifth in Amstel and third in both Flèche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The 2014 season brought more than just podium places, of course. He won eight times, including the Volta ao Algarve overall, the Strade Bianche, and the prologue in the Tour de Romandie. The big one, however, came in September when he led Poland’s team to victory in the world championship road race in Ponferrada, Spain.

He has one win this year, but that was a prologue time trial to kick off Paris-Nice and so he was wearing his Etixx skin suit instead of the rainbow bands. Over 6.7 kilometers, he nudged out Australian Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) — the current hour record holder — and three-time world time trial champion and German teammate Tony Martin.

The signs are pointing toward a rainbow victory soon, given his past run in the Ardennes classics and the season to date. Kwiatkowski, like many Ardennes contenders, just finished the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) stage race in Spain. He bagged a few top fives and placed eighth overall behind Spain’s Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha).

“The big goal is the Ardennes classics,” Kwiatkowski said.

“It would have been great to get results in País Vasco, but I have to remember that I’ll need to be fresh and strong at the end of those classics because there are many others preparing for those races as well, like Alejandro Valverde, Sergio Henao, Philippe Gilbert or ‘Purito’ [Rodríguez]. I’m thinking a lot about the Ardennes and the efforts I’ll have to make.”

Belgium’s Etixx team would welcome the win. Though it is the top team with Katusha in terms of victories (18 so far this season) Etixx failed to pull off a win in one of the prized cobbled classics. An Ardennes win would be the next best thing, and doing so in style with the rainbow jersey would be the icing on the cake.

After the Ardennes classics, Kwiatkowski will take a rest. He will build toward the Tour de France with a training camp at altitude in May, the Tour de Suisse, and the national championships.