Michal Kwiatkowski is hoping to tackle the Tour of Flanders this season as he looks to continue his momentum following a standout 2017 campaign.
The Pole enjoyed arguably the best 12 months of his career with marquee victories at Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo and Clasica San Sebastian, before heading to the Tour de France to help wingman Chris Froome to a fourth title.
After a winter of hard training the 27 year old is ready to go again, starting with the upcoming Vuelta a Valenciana.
Explained Kwiatkowski on his Flanders hopes;
“I was just missing cobbles… the Classics for me are pure racing and Tour of Flanders is just an amazing race. I was able to race there before, and also for Team Sky in 2016. The week before that I won (E3) Harelbeke and I was one of the favourites for the win. I believe I have the ability to fight for the victory. Whatever happens there, together with my teammates, whoever is going to be there, we are able to be there as favourites and future winners. That’s why I want to be a part of it. Let’s hope it’s going to be a good one.”
‘Kwiato’ is under no illusions that topping 2017 will take some doing, but feels that striving for constant improvements should put him right back in the mix for victories.
“Looking at the upcoming season the first thing I’m thinking about is improvements. That word describes everything. Of course it can be difficult to repeat the results I got in 2017, but of course I will be there to train harder, to race better and to race smarter. Let’s hope that will bring even more victories than I had.
“If you look at my race calendar for sure that’s going to be quite similar to the previous season. Of course in the first part I’d love to aim to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege – a race I still haven’t been able to win in my career. That’s going to be the first big goal. On top of that races like Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo again. That’s the first part of the year, and then there’s the Tour and I’d love to be back racing with Team Sky for the victory.”
With the World Championships taking place on hilly Austrian soil in 2018, the 2014 rainbow jersey winner is also eyeing up another big change – taking the road to Innsbruck-Tirol via the Vuelta a Espana.
Laying out some potential hopes for later in the season he added:
“I think a big change would be if I could put a second Grand Tour in a single season. So after the Tour if everything goes well let’s hope I can race the Vuelta and then prepare as best as I can for the World Champs in Austria.”
Understandably Kwiatkowski has fond memories of 2017, and is particularly proud of the consistent high level of form he showed.
“The biggest reflection from 2017 was the way I was racing across the entire season. That was the most important thing for me, that I could actually race at the highest level all the time and I was there in the game to win the races. That was really important for me. And because of that I could win such big races as Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo and San Sebastian. Those were my best moments of the season, and of course the Tour de France was such an amazing race. I never expected from myself that I would be able to be up there for 21 stages, deliver such a performance and help Chris to take the victory. I’m very proud of that and I hope I can improve on every aspect – Grand Tours, Classics – this season.”
Big victories last year were made all the sweeter as Kwiatkowski bounced back from what was, by his own admission, a disappointing season in 2016. Despite not hitting the heights in his first year as a Team Sky rider, he admitted the team’s belief was instrumental in getting him back to his best, and ultimately signing a new three-year contract.
“The support I had from the team was amazing, and that’s why I was able to win such big races. That’s what I love about this team. They don’t give up on you, I don’t give up on them and that’s why I was able to talk about my future with such a team, which stands behind you when you are in trouble, and are there to support you winning the race. It was just a matter of time that there was going to be a signature on the contract and I’m happy that I can be part of the family for the next three years. We can really think, not just about short-term goals in 2018, but think about how my race calendar could look in the next two to three years. That’s great and it gives me the opportunity to think long-term, which can only make me better.”