After nine stages of the 2014 Tour de France, the young Polish rider Michael Kwiatkowski has a lead of 13” over Romain Bardet in the youth classification. He is the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team’s GC man and he’s ranked sixth overall after 1,621km of racing. With a deficit of 4:00 on Tony Gallopin, he is still optimistic about his chances of a good overall result.
In the early part of stage 10, he went on the attack and at the halfway mark was the virtual leader of the Tour. RIDE profile ‘Kwiatek’ last week when he insisted that he was still learning the ways of the Tour de France and his team’s manager, Patrick Lefévère agrees that improvements can still be made but that there’s every reason to have faith in his abilities.
Before the start of stage nine, Rob Arnold spoke to Lefevere about ‘Flowerman’. Here is a transcript of that exchange…
RIDE: Are you confident that Michal can continue?
Patrick Lefevere: “Yes, I’m confident. But also he’s young, huh? He’s 24 [while] Contador and Nibali are 30, 31… they have more experience and they are more climbers because, at the end of the day, a very important thing in modern cycling is the weight of the riders… Contador is very, very skinny and even if he’s a little bit taller than Michal, he is five kilo less. And if you go on a real col, five kilo is an amazing weight. Put five bottles in your pocket and you will understand what I mean.
“The construction of Michal is a little bit different than those pure climbers.
“He is able to do Tour of Flanders, he is able to do Liège-Bastogne-Liège, he can do a flat stage, he can do a mountain stage… he’s strong and he’s wild. Every day he can do too much aggressive riding and of course he spends a lot of energy. But we will see… I think the next few days will be very important for him.”
Years ago you told me that you were happed to be a ‘Classics team’ but that you were always looking for the ‘Witte Merel’. Have you found that rare rider with Kwiatek?
“Not yet. He’s brilliant but I think we have to continue to look because he may yet fly away.
“We have been working hard these last few years [to find a GC rider] with Rigoberto Uran, with Kwiatkowski… and, okay, Boonen gets a day older but on the other side we have discovered [Matteo] Trentin – three years ago nobody knew him…
“So I continue to try and find the rare breed – the GC winner.”
How long is the contract for Kwiatek?
“He’s with us until the end of next year. But we are thinking about speaking him to stay for a few more years yet.”
* * * * *
With 90km to go in stage 10, Kwiatkowski is the virtual leader of the Tour de France. We wait to see if he turns white to yellow…
– By Rob Arnold