Rider of the week
What a difference a year makes! In 2014, Michal Kwiatkowski came 5th in Amstel Gold Race and was left to rue the tactical mistakes he made in the finale, when Samuel Sanchez attacked, paving the way for Philippe Gilbert, who then blew everyone else off his wheel and got to the finish alone. Fast forward a year later, and the young Pole makes a perfect race all day long in the Dutch Classic, staying at the front, watching his opponents and studying every important move, before ending up winning it in one of the most spectacular finishes seen this season.
What was really impressive in Kwiatkowski’s display was seeing him all the time in the first ten riders of the peloton and staying composed throughout the race, just like in Ponferrada, where he took the world title, last Fall. Not even when Philippe Gilbert put on a fierce attack, to which only Michael Matthews could respond, the Pole didn’t panic and after being briefly distanced, he came back in his own rhythm, joining the others and patiently waiting for the sprint. On paper, Michael Matthews and Alejandro Valverde were the favorites there, but they were both overhauled by Kwiatkowski, whose legs were stronger and fresher after 258 arduous kilometers, “sprinkled” with no less than 34 hills.
On Sunday, Michal Kwiatkowski became just the fourth World Champion to triumph in Amstel Gold Race, following in the footsteps of Eddy Merckx, Jan Raas and Bernard Hinault. Now, with Liège–Bastogne–Liège just around the corner, he could reach another important milestone, by becoming the first rainbow jersey wearer since Moreno Argentin, in 1987, to notch the the win in the oldest Monument. Considering the top performance he’s had last week and his incredible level of consistency, a victory in “La Doyenne” looks very likely.