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The Ineos Grenadiers star suffered through a case of COVID-19 this winter, and after battling through a tactical puzzle to get in the pole position to win, he thought he had lost in a bike-throw to the line against Benoît Cosnefroy.
And then the replay confirmed the result, and Kwiatkowski could fully celebrate a second Amstel Gold Race some seven years later.
“It was a rollercoaster, it was very emotional,” he said. “He thought he won. What can I say? It teaches me you have to be patient. It was a similar situation in San Remo, and it was sad for me when I heard I was second, and then the happiness came. It was great, it was euphoria.”
Kwiatkowski, 31, delivered a tactical masterpiece from Ineos Grenadiers to isolate pre-race favorite Mathieu van der Poel, and play a numbers game with Tom Pidcock against a select group of favorites.
“It was all about winning today. When I found myself alone and when Cosnefroy joined me, it was all about winning at that moment,” he told FloBikes. “The team rode amazing today and we executed the race to perfection. We took the responsibility at every moment. Then we really put the hammer down.”
The presence of Pidcock helped set up for Kwiatkowski for his winning surge. Cosnefroy bridged across, but with Pidcock marking the wheels in the chase group, the pressure was on the French rider.
“We are discussing with Tom what to do. We put the hammer down and we made that group smaller, and we found ourselves in a good position with two guys in that front group, and we knew we could use that at the right moment,” he said.
— Michał Kwiatkowski (@kwiato) April 10, 2022
The Polish star won a similarly dramatic finish in the 2017 Milan-San Remo.
“I was only there to win. I knew that it’s all about winning, having Tom there, and how we raced today. When Cosnefroy joined me, it was up to him to do most of the work to maintain the gap. We had this plan to have the number in the front. For sure I wasn’t there to be second.
“I was trying to do the right thing. Cosnefroy did most of the job, because I heard that Tom was in the group behind, and he was aware of that as well.”
Ineos Grenadiers tactics: ‘It was all about winning today’
Kwiatkowski was emotional with the victory, his first since winning a stage at the 2020 Tour de France.
The victory comes on the heels of Ineos Grenadiers winning the overall at Itzulia Basque Country with Dani Martínez.
For Kwiatkowski, one of the more successful members of the “Class of 1990,” the win is a salve for a rough few weeks.
“The last few weeks and months have been a very difficult period for me,” he said. “It’s just pure happiness what I feel right now.
“It was a very difficult start of the season for me. I was going through COVID in February, I had postpone my race program and I got the flu at the Volta a Catalunya,” he told FloBikes. “My family was sick, and I had the feeling that everything was going in the wrong direction.
“But here I am, the winner of the Amstel Gold Race. So just imagine the feelings when I hear my name as the winner of the race.”