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The new world road race champion Michal Kwiatkowski will make his competitive debut in the hallowed rainbow jersey at next Sunday’s Il Lombardia, with the Omega Pharma Quick Step rider heading a strong eight-man team.
The Polish rider has been coming to terms with the biggest victory of his career, letting Sunday’s win in Ponferrada sink in. He underlined his strong form with a daring move on the final lap, slipping clear on the descent before the final climb, bridging across to the breakaway group on the flat road in between and then pushing ahead towards the top of the ascent.
While some of the world’s best riders chased behind, he had enough momentum and determination to pull off a superb win and become the first-ever world road race champion from Poland.
Unsurprisingly, things are yet to get back to some degree of normality. “The last days were a little bit hectic,” he said. “I went home after a great welcome at the Warsaw airport. My family and my girlfriend were there, along with many journalists and supporters. It was really nice to meet all those people and see how huge cycling has become in Poland.
“To be honest, I still have to realize what I did. I’m still in shock, even now. When I think about that race, after the finish I was really confused because it was so incredible. It’s like when you dream during the night and then everything comes true. It’s something I am still processing.”
By riding Il Lombardia, Kwiatkowski will have a chance to show off his jersey and also to try to take a rare double success in both races. The Italian Paolo Bettini was the last to achieve the feat, doing so in 2006, but Kwiatkowski has been given the sort of backing to improve his chances in the event.
He will be joined by Giro d’Italia runner-up Rigoberto Uran, his compatriot Michal Golas, Julian Alaphilippe, Gianluca Brambilla, Wout Poels, Pieter Serry and Carlos Verona.
The race is 248 kilometres long and includes climbs such as the Madonna del Ghisallo (8.58km, 6.2% average gradient, 14% max ramp), Colle Gallo (7.43km, 6% average gradient, 10% max ramp), Passo di Ganda (9.2km, 7.3% average gradient, 15% max ramp), and Berbenno (5.5km, 5.3% average gradient, 10% max ramp).
One more climb features between there and the finish, with a short section ramping up at an average gradient of 7.9 percent and peaking at 12 percent. It also includes pavé, making it more difficult again.
Kwiatkowski admitted that he doesn’t have a good history in the race, but pledges to do his utmost.
“I’ve never been able to finish it. I got sick last year the night before the start,” he said. “So with this jersey, I at least have to do better than last year! To me it’s beautiful to show my jersey for the first time in a monument.
“Let’s see what I can do considering all the great emotions I’ve had in the last days. Of course I will try to do my best to honour the race and the jersey.”