Michał Kwiatkowski: "the biggest pressure comes from myself"

wowo brylla/rowery.org

Polish time-trial champion talks about Tour de France preparations and goals for three-week race

Poland's Michał Kwiatkowski is careful to set his goals ahead of 2014 Tour de France. The race for maillot jaune commences tomorrow with a stage from Leeds to Harrogate and 24-year-old lines up alongside Mark Cavendish and Tony Martin in Omega Pharma-Quick Step's outfit.

"Kwiato" started the season with wins in Mallorca, Algarve and solo victory in Strade Bianche. He used the start in Vuelta al Pais Vasco to prepare for Ardennes classics, finishing 2nd overall and surrendering only to Alberto Contador. He then went on to take 3rd place in both Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege and finish 5th in Amstel Gold Race. Following fantastic classic campaign, Kwiatkowski gunned to the win in Tour de Romandie prologue, concluding first part of the year with 6 wins under his belt.

Intensive racing schedule took its toll, however, and young Pole came back to racing in June with problems. Poor showing in the Dauphine resulted in quitting the race and undergoing medical tests, to rule out the possibility of a virus.

Today, with national time-trial champion title won last week, 24-year-old is all set to start his second Tour de France and try to repeat last year's performance, although, as he admits, fight for the general classification is not his only goal.

Michał, we are now in Sobótka, where National Championships take place. Two days ago you won a national time trial champion title. The road race starts in two days and the Tour de France is next up. How are you feeling?

Quite good, thanks. I wasn't feeling very good before the time trial, but I managed to perform well and that gives me a boost of confidence before the Tour. Not necessairly before Sunday - this is a specific race, many things can happen.

(Kwiatkowski finished 21st in the road race, over 14 minutes down on the winner - Bartłomiej Matysiak)

Were you surprised with your result in the time trial?

Surprised? I don't know. I was a little worried about my shape, I worked very hard to be 100% for the Tour. So the time trial showed me that I am on the right track. I did my best, I think I did rides like this one this year. What surprised me was that Maciek Bodnar lost 27 seconds in the last part of the course - I didn't really increase my pace.

Your withdrawal from Criterium du Dauphine, tests and taking some extra rest suggest that you didn't have enough rest after the first part of the season...

It has certainly affected my shape at the Dauphine. I was feeling quite good for the first four days, but the last two... it was getting worse and worse and I didn't know why. I was tired - before the race I only had three days to recover after hard training. We also travelled a lot, as we did a reconnaissance of Tour's stages.

Last year you finished racing before Tour de Romandie. What went wrong this year?

Basically, there was not that much time between first part of the season and the Dauphine. It was a week off and 4 weeks of training. Last year it was one week off and 5 weeks of training, so I had more time to get in shape. This year there are also more duties - media and stuff like that - which makes the rest days different.

Do you think you trained too hard?

I was training for the whole May and my numbers were ok. But when I came to Dauphine, I lacked freshness, I was not feeling good. There were moments like this in the past - this year during Milan - San Remo or last year in Canada, during GP Quebec. It is always different, but when I am tired, it affects me like this. Fortunately, between the Dauphine and the Tour there are always three weeks to improve and to rest a little.

Next week you are heading to Leeds where the Tour kicks off. What's the plan?

I would like to ride like last year, take the race day-by-day. We will be working for Mark Cavendish and every stage will be a challenge. We'll see how my body responds to riding among favourites, we'll see where I can go. I don't take it for granted that I can repeat what I achieved last year. The most important thing is to gain experience. When I deserve to ride for the GC and work only for myself, I will. For now, I do not deserve that and I think I have to wait a little.

Which stages of the Tour have you inspected?

We went to see the route of stage 8, 9 and 10. Ah, and the cobbles, so stage 5. We were planning to see the climbs in the Alps, but I chose to give it up and rest my body properly. I believe it was a good decision.

This year you started winning races. You talked about media attention and duties you have. How much has it changed your life and preparations?

I race to be the best and I think it's part of the job to respond to media interest and fit it into the schedule. I am not talking about pressure. The biggest pressure comes myself. I know that many people expect me to do certain things, but I am focused on my work and my goals. They can say whatever they want to, I know where I am going.

L'Equipe is preparing a publication on you and your academy for kids. We have already talked about the project before, but do you spend much on it?

After the season - yes. During the year - well, I am in contact with coaches and people who work there. I trust them, so the project is not distracting me in any way, it is even nice to take my mind off training routine.

picture credit: wowo brylla/rowery.org

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