Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Michal Kwiatkowski said he would do his best to try and get the leader’s jersey in the Stage 4, 19.2km individual time trial on Thursday after placing 3rd on a mountain stage the day before. After all, time trials are his strength, but there were several time trial specialists near the top of the overall rankings.
Still, it was the young Polish rider who did exactly what he hoped to do — take over the GC lead by finishing 3rd in the stage, with a time of 22’25″. Svein Tuft (Orica GreenEDGE) won the stage, and Leandro Messineo (Argentina) was 2nd.
“It was really hot today, maybe more than 30 degrees,” Kwiatkowski said. “I did two laps of the TT this morning and knew the course was really simple. It had maybe two corners and two roundabouts, nothing really hard. The first part, everybody was trying to ride as fast possible because the second was really, really fast.”
Kwiatkowski — who showed he was a rising star on OPQS in 2012 with 108 UCI WorldTour points, a Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen ITT victory, and a 2nd in GC at Tour de Pologne — was able to take the leader’s jersey by besting the 22’47″ time of top GC contender Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team). Kwiatkowski now leads van Garderen in the GC by 23″, and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto Belisol) by 42″.
“Tejay van Garderen will be, for sure, the guy who will try to go for the GC in the next days,” Kwiatkowski said. “I didn’t see the GC results, so it’s hard to say who else is a contender at the moment. Contador and Nibali are great champions, so maybe they will try to win the stage tomorrow or attack for the GC.”
Kwiatkowski’s 3rd place finish was the 4th podium for OPQS in four stages at Tour de San Luis.
OPQS will defend the leader’s jersey in a grueling 169.8km Stage 5 on Friday. The stage concludes with a 10.5km climb averaging 7.2 percent, followed by several undulating kilometers.
“Other teams, not sure how many riders, maybe eight or nine may try to be in the break tomorrow, so it is not going to be easy,” Kwiatkowski said. “Some riders may try to win the stage, like Rodriguez of Katusha, for example. He may not be up for the GC anymore, but think he could go for the stage. A few riders who lost time in the TT today may try to win the stage as well.”
“I am just so happy I improved a lot from last year, and the team has supported me all the way to this season,” Kwiatkowski added. “I think if we go on like this, it will be very good to build the morale for the team.”