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July 10, 2014 (AFP) – Michal Kwiatkowski may not have won a stage of the Tour de France yet but he has impressed with his daring tactics and is getting ever closer.
The 24-year-old Pole has come on in leaps and bounds these last two years, finishing 11th at last year’s Tour and coming third in the young riders’ category. With Peter Sagan wearing the green jersey on Thursday, Kwiatkowski wore the white young riders’ shirt on the 194km sixth stage from Arras to Reims as he is second behind the Slovak in that category. And he took inspiration from the jersey to make a surprise solo break for home with just over 1km to ride. He was only reeled in 300m out.
“We risked it in the crosswind and went full gas with the echelons,” Kwiatkowski said. “We didn’t look back. We were trying to go to the finish in a good position and maybe even have a few less guys in the peloton. “In the final we tried something different. Matteo (Trentin) was on my wheel and on the last corner he slowed down, and I went with everything I had to the finish.
“Unfortunately it was a long way — a little longer than I anticipated. But we tried something new, and Mark (Renshaw) still placed in the top five of the stage. “I think it shows what Omega Pharma-Quick Step is capable of. We will always fight and even get a little creative with the strong team we have.” It was a second good day in a row for Kwiatkowski who was in a position to go for the win on Wednesday’s gruelling stage despite crashing before the first of seven cobbled sectors.
He fought his way back up and was with yellow jersey wearer Vincenzo Nibali and eventual stage winner Lars Boom until a late puncture scuppered his chances. He still managed to move up to fourth in the overall standings, though, just 50sec behind Nibali and more than a minute ahead of most of the overall contenders. It’s been a fine return to form for Kwiatkowski who was one of the on form riders at the start of the season, before losing condition in April/May’s Tour of Romandie. In February he won the Tour of the Algarve before also winning Strade Bianche in March.
But it was April where he really took off. He was second to Alberto Contador at the Tour of the Basque Country and then had a stunning Ardennes Classics campaign. He was third at both Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege having finished fifth at the Amstel Gold Race. He ended the month by winning the opening prologue of the Tour of Romandie, beating Chris Froome notably, before he cracked on the third stage on May 2, losing more than 30 minutes. He pulled out before the start of the next stage.But rested and seemingly back to his best, the Polish time-trial champion could be a dark horse for a top-five finish on the Tour.