For the Polish Champion from Team Sky stage win and the yellow Carrefour jersey.
The arrival on the terrible wall at Szczyrk was a climb that was about one kilometre long, with tortuous inclines on stretches up to 15% and 17%. It was an arrival that literally lit up the Tour de Pologne – UCI World Tour.
All credit goes to Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky); on the roads of his native Poland, in front of his hometown crowds, he pulled off an extraordinary feat, winning the stage and clinching the yellow jersey as the new leader of the general classification.
With a brilliant move on the last metres of this gruelling wall, Kwiatkowski managed to prevail by latching onto the back tyre of Belgium’s Dyaln Teuns (BMC Racing), who was the winner on this same finish line last year before he went on to win the Tour de Pologne. New Zealand’s George Bennett (LottoNL – Jumbo) was third. Russian Sergei Chernetski (Astana) was fourth, Spain’s Daniel Moreno (EF Education First) fifth and Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (Fdj) sixth. Other top riders include Clombian Sergio Henao (Team Sky) in ninth place, Davide Formolo (Bora-hansgrohe) tenth, Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) twelfth and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) seventeenth.
Thanks to this fantastic victory Michal Kwiatkowski also donned the yellow Carrefour jersey as leader of the general classification, where he now holds an 8” advantage over Teuns, 10” on Bennett and 14” on Chernetski, Pinot and Moreno. This general classification still clocks many top riders within 30”, so the next stages, especially the last two mountain stages in the Tatra Mountains, at Bukowina Tatrzanska, will be decisive to determine the outcome of this Tour de Pologne.
This victory is particularly sweet, since it is Kwiatkowski’s first on the roads of his Tour de Pologne. Previously, in the 2012 edition, where he finished second, Kwiatkowski wore the yellow jersey for two days without, however, winning a stage. This is the race he loves the most; he got his start here, riding as a kid in the Mini Tour de Pologne.
Here’s a recap of the race
Today’s stage was the longest one in the 2018 Tour de Pologne, covering 179 km from Jaworzno to Szczyrk. The first part of the race featured a break by three riders: Poland’s Marek Rutkiewicz (Reprezentacja Polski), one of the veterans in the pack who is participating in his 16th Tour de Pologne this year; Slovenian Jan Tratnik (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) and Belgian Bert Van Lerberghe (Cofidis). The three took off ahead right after the start, eventually reaching a maximum advantage of more than 5 minutes.
There was a fun moment in Wilamowice, about 50 km into the race, when the group let Przemyslaw Niemiec (UAE Team Emirates) gain an advantage of a few seconds to make a quick stop in his home town and say hi to his wife, kids and fans.
After the initial, primarily flat part the route started getting hilly and on the day’s first GPM Van Lerberghe fell back while the Rutkiewicz and Tratnik went for the prize with determination. Meanwhile, the pack was being spurred on mostly by Kwiatkowski and Henao for Team Sky, by Mitchelton-Scott with Simon Yates and by Thibaut Pinot for Fdj.
With about 38 km to go to the arrival, Slovenia’s Tratnik, clearly the most active rider today, took off all alone, leaving Rutkiewicz behind.
Along the descent down from the third GPM of the day, a quartet of counter attackers broke off from the group and was hot on Tratnik’s tail. There were two Austrians, Patrick Konrad (Bora-hansgrohe) and Georg Preidler (Fdj), Russian Ivan Rovny (Gazprom) and Spaniard Jorge Arcas (Movistar). The 4 caught up to Tratnik about 20 km out from the arrival, which made for a gang of 5 attackers leading the race.
At the beginning of the fourth climb of the day, Tratnik ran out of energy and fell back from the lead group. In any case, in today’s breaking move Tratnik won all three Lotto intermediate primes and three out of the four Tauron GPMs of the day, making it to the podium in the di Tauron magenta jersey as the best climber.
With 13 km to go to the arrival, after the selections on the today’s climbs, the group of best riders being pulled by Team Sky was down to about 50 units, a perseverant pack that eventually overtook all the attackers.
It was the wall at Szczyrk that decided the race. The first rider to give it a shot was Richard Carapaz (Movistar), who got caught just a few hundred metres from the finish line on the hardest stretch, where Kwiatkowski delivered the final blow and managed to get the best of Teuns and Bennett.
Michal Kwiatkowski is also the leader of the Lotos special classification for the best Polish rider.
Colombian Alvaro Hodeg (Quick-Step Floors) hangs on to the Hyundai white jersey for best sprinter.
Belgian Jenthe Biermans (Katusha-Alpecin) keeps the Lotto blue jersey as the most active rider in the group.
BMC Racing leads the team classification.
“It’s great that my team mates worked so hard and they deserve the credit for today’s stage success; I wasn’t sure if I would have the legs today, especially after finishing the Tour de France and the three stages in this race. You never know about these things and it’s hard to tell in advance – the climbs were very steep and my team mates were amazing – they did a lot of work without waiting for other teams to take turns and gave it their all. It’s great for me to be able to deliver and to get the win for the team, especially in front of Polish supporters and in Szczyrk, a really great place. It’s one of the best stages of Tour de Pologne. Now let’s hope I can recover for the next stages and continue winning in Poland. I’m trying to just stay relaxed for my team and my supporters, and I’m just looking forward and focusing on my job and what needs to be done,” says the winner Michal Kwiatkowski.
Watch the interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15H352_jQEE
“The timing was very important, even if I felt I had the legs I had to find the right moment. I waited a bit longer to attack but Kwiatkowski still came through strong and took the stage win. Maybe the timing of the attack was a bit too late or a bit too early, but it’s hard to tell, I will need to look into it. There are some good favourites of the race and some strong support teams, but there are still several stages left and anything can happen. We have three hard days ahead and a lot can change. Even though Sky is a strong force in the stage races, there are other teams and other people like me who want to win –I’m not the only one with this goal so it will be a tough fight. Admittedly, I aimed to win this stage, so I am a bit disappointed with the 2nd place, but it was a fair fight and Kwiatkowski beat me one-on-one. And he either was stronger, or I didn’t time my attack right. Let’s see what happens in later stages- there are a lot of riders who want the top spot and yellow jersey and the attacks will keep happening,” says Dylan Teuns, who was second today.
“I’m happy, I’m relieved, I wasn’t feeling good at all, but obviously I wasn’t feeling that bad, because I ended up third. I knew how hard the climb was because I’d watched a video of it. And then we went and I thought we had 300 meters to go and I was thinking ‘I’m in trouble’ and then I saw the 100 meters (sign before the finish) and I actually thought the Movistar guy (Richard Carapaz, early attacker) was in front. But finally I got third” say George Bennett.
“I knew that the breakaway would be difficult today and it might come to an end at some point, but I gave it my best shot and got the primes. Tomorrow is another important stage – a lot of climbing ahead and a big effort. Today was really hard but I am ok now so I should recover well,” says the magenta Tauron jersey Jan Tratnik.
Watch the interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udnAjE-MipQ