A moment with Michal Kwiatkowski at the 2015 UCI Road World Championships
A few days out from the Men’s road race at the 2015 UCI Road World Championships, the reigning champion Michal Kwiatowski (POL) granted us an exclusive interview. Feelings on the eve of the momentous race, a look back at a year in the rainbow jersey, goals for 2016, new technology…. the Polish champion shares it all.
A year ago, in Spain, you became the first Polish rider ever to be crowned UCI Road World Champion. Do you consider yourself a strong contender for this year’s race in Richmond?
Yes, the World Championship race is always a lottery. You have a group of favourites that can win this race, and I was one of them last year. I checked the course already. The last five kilometres are also pretty tricky this year. Let’s hope I can be up there with the favourites. I would love to see myself up there fighting to defend the rainbow jersey. It would be amazing but I know how hard it is to get that. It was hard last year so it will be even harder this year.
What do you think of this year's course? What profile do you think the riders need if they are to be in with a chance to win?
It’s a really long race, almost 260km. And for sure the strongest rider is going to win this race, because the last five kilometres really suit the puncheurs, and the last straight to the finish suits the sprinters.
I think you really need to have a good day and really save your energy till the last lap to have the possibility to fight on the last straight when,of course, it’s not a typical race for the sprinters. So I would say many all-rounders, many puncheurs will be able to compete there.
Let’s talk about the rainbow jersey now. You’ve been wearing it for the last 12 months. How special is it? How would you describe that feeling of winning one of the most coveted jerseys in the cycling world?
It changed my life. People everywhere started to recognise me.
In Poland it was really huge. I get a lot of support from the fans. They really were enjoying this victory with me. And in Europe… all over the world, when I was racing, I got a lot of support from the people. They were always coming back to this victory in Ponferrada. All of the season they were cheering me on, and that’s what I needed during the cycling races.
When they scream your nickname and surname during a hard uphill or a really tough moment of the race, that always gives you a lot of motivation. So I was really happy about it, that I could represent cycling with the rainbow jersey. That was an amazing year. I was happy to wear it. It’s a big responsibility, but I was trying to do my best.
Did you feel new pressure from the peloton because you’re wearing that jersey?
Yes, of course. It feels like the other riders have more respect for me than I had even before… more respect for the World Champion. They have a lot of respect for me, which for that I’m really thankful. As I said, I did my best to be a good World Champion. And also from the other riders I get many congratulations, and it was lovely to race with the rainbow stripes.
You were talking about your home country of Poland before. When you were a kid you raced the Mini Tour of Poland. This year you came back to ride the pro race as reigning UCI World Champion. How did it go?
It was amazing actually. I was not really in good shape in that period and maybe from my performance it was not the best idea to start in the Tour of Poland after the Tour de France, but of course I’m happy that I started the Tour of Poland, to pay back the prize that the fans give me… a lot of support. Now I give them a little bit back, and I try to do my best there. It was amazing. Even though I had bad days there. I didn’t finish the race, but I had really good memories from that race. The Polish fans, the public is amazing. A lot of people came to watch the race. That will always stay in my head.
You had good results in Portugal and Paris-Nice, you won the Amstel Gold Race, but abandoned the Tour de France. How would you describe your season?
I’m happy about the first part of the season, but it’s another season where I’m still trying to find my best path, preparing for the first part of the season, the middle and the end. I’m not really happy about the middle part. I struggled a little bit on the Tour and the Tour of Poland, but let’s hope the lesson was learned from that part and now I keep on going, keep on trying to be back in shape. And since the Brussels classics I’ve been moving forward. Since the races in Canada, I’m feeling much better and I’m able to compete with the best riders, which is really important before a world race.
Like a few of the riders in the peloton you use Strava a lot. How many KOMs do you have?
I don’t know! I’ll check that. It’s one of the social media I use. It’s a kind of a contact with the people, with my fans. They always ask me about where I am and what I’m doing. Strava is one of them where I can directly make public my location and my feeling during the race. I get a lot of comments there on Strava. I read them. I’m happy that people cannot just watch me during the race, when I’m racing, but they can see that I’m working hard for that. I’m happy that there are so many possibilities to share your feelings with people.
So you’re the UCI Road World Champion. But if you could pick up another sport, another interest, what would it be?
I'm kind of a geek.
That’s why you’re on Strava then?!
Yeah. I like new devices and I’m a fan of technology, but actually being a professional cyclist you don’t have time to follow them all. I’d like to have even more technology in cycling, because it’s also a kind of thing that can bring more people to cycling, to show them what’s going on in bike races from different angles. Yes, that’s my kind of hobby.
What’s your favourite geek item at the moment, one you’re using a lot?
I don’t know. Hard to say. I’m flying drones a lot now, but I couldn’t bring them to the US. I also like to film. Even during training camps with the team I make some movies, and drones is a kind of thing that you can use to connect technology and filming. At the moment I’m really interested in that, but you know how it is with technology. It changes a lot and… fast.
What’s your goal for next season?
Next season? It’s hard to say. Let’s say for this moment I’m really focused on the end of this one. We’re not yet there but, of course, I will reset myself after this season and I will be really motivated to do it much, much better than this year.