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"The second-to-last time up the Cauberg I said to Gianni Meersman 'you know, I'm not feeling so good today.' But he said to me straight away that everyone is suffering with 34 climbs at this race and I have to make it."

Photo: Sirotti








19.04.2015 @ 20:07 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Etixx - Quick-Step rider Michal Kwiatkowski achieved one of his main objectives, winning the first Ardennes Classic of his career on Sunday. The UCI World Road Champion won out of a select group at 258km Amstel Gold Race, as the group came together going into the final kilometer after Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) attacked over the top of his teammate Ben Hermans on the Cauberg. The tactic was the same that won Gilbert the 2014 edition of the race, but did not have the same success in the 2015 edition.


Kwiatkowski stayed composed on the Cauberg with 2km to go, as it looked like Gilbert, and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE), had a chance to make it to the line. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) eventually bridged. A group of about 18 riders came back together to contest the finish, and the Polish Etixx - Quick-Step rider waited in the group to launch at the perfect moment for the victory. Valverde finished 2nd, and Matthews 3rd. Etixx - Quick-Step rider Julian Alaphilippe was also 7th.


Kwiatkowski was escorted to the key moment on the Cauberg by several of his teammates, and hard work by Tony Martin out front earlier in the race allowed Kwiatkowski to conserve some energy in the peloton leading into that point. Martin eventually bridged to a breakaway with a chase group, as David Tanner (IAM Cycling) attacked when the original escape group was caught with about 37km to go in the race. Five riders including Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Martin, Tanner, Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin), and Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE) came together and had an advantage over the peloton with 28km to go.


Collaboration within the breakaway, which was eventually down to Clarke, Nibali, and Martin, became an issue and Clarke went solo with 14km to go and the gap at 9 seconds. However, even Clarke was caught with about 8km to go in the race. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) tried to launch an attack, but that was also chased down before the peloton exploded on the final ascent of the Cauberg due to the acceleration of Hermans.


The victory of Kwiatkowski is the 19th on the road for Etixx - Quick-Step in 2015. Kwiatkowski is just the 4th rider in cycling history to win Amstel Gold Race in the Rainbow Jersey. Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Jan Raas were the other three riders to accomplish this feat. Kwiatkowski is now 4th in the UCI WorldTour Individual Ranking, with 195 points. Etixx - Quick-Step is now ranked 1st in the UCI WorldTour Team Ranking, with 670 points.


"This was a great day for me, the hard work paid off," Kwiatkowski said. "I'm really thankful that my teammates were so amazing today. I was always in the top 20 or 25 positions. I could relax the whole day. We had Tony in the important breakaway and that was crucial for me.


"Of course I was suffering as well in a race with so many climbs. The second-to-last time up the Cauberg I said to Gianni Meersman 'you know, I'm not feeling so good today.' But he said to me straight away that everyone is suffering with 34 climbs at this race and I have to make it. That gave me a lot of motivation before the last time up the Cauberg. I'm really thankful they believed in me until the last moment. In cycling you never know what to expect from those around you. You might look around and feel like no one is suffering but you don't know the true situation until the last important acceleration.


"For the sprint I was able to sit in the slipstream and breathe a little bit, and that was important to recover from the effort on the Cauberg. I was able to get some energy back to go full gas in the select group sprint and win Amstel Gold Race. It's an amazing race here, with a difficult race from start to finish and so many fans of cycling on each climb. It's really special to get this win at the opening race of the Ardennes Classics.


"Etixx - Quick-Step had a really strong first part of the season leading up to today. We had some bad luck with riders like Tom Boonen being injured before the Cobbled Classics. But we still tried to go for the win as we had many other cards to play. In cycling if you don't go for it, you're never going to get the victory. The whole team was happy about the podium at Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix because we tried our best at those races. Today we had the same kind of effort and I am now at the top of the podium. We got the success we were trying so hard for.


"For sure, winning Amstel Gold Race in the Rainbow Jersey means a lot to both me and the team, and it is another example of how strong we are as a collective. I built up really well for this race, and winning here, which was my goal, I cannot describe my emotions. It's really big for me at this point in my career.


"For sure I will celebrate with my teammates tonight. They were key to helping me get this win. Then, we look next to the rest of the Ardennes Classics with great morale."


"I'm very happy for the team and also for myself, because I finished in the first group," Alaphilippe said. "It was a strong team performance today. I was just behind the first group at the top of the last climb of the Cauberg. I saw Michal was in the front, so I was happy with that. But I still wanted to come back to the front group and try to help him. I was there in the first group with 500 meters to go, but I was boxed in and couldn't do any more to support our leader. But then I saw Michal won the race. It is a big emotion for today and I am very happy for Michal and the team."


"It's a great day for the team and for Michal," CEO Patrick Lefevere said. "He reconfirmed after the UCI World Road Championship victory last year what we already knew. We knew he was a rider who could get great results in the big races. He's a consistent rider and today he showed again his talent.


"The team around him was also perfect. The guys raced as a cohesive group. Everyone put their efforts at the service of Michal and the work paid off with this great victory.


"Because of this victory we're now in 1st place of the provisional UCI WorldTour Team ranking. There is still a long way to go, but for us this achievement is important because we worked hard to get to the top. We deserve the result, we had a lot of races where we were on the podium and now a win has put us in 1st place. So, this position repays all the team, from the staff to the riders, for their hard work up to today. This accomplishment is because of a lot of important pieces to the puzzle. In the next races we will do our best to defend our position as the top ranked UCI WorldTour cycling team in the world."



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