Whatever else Michal Kwiatkowski may do during his career he will always be a world champion, a box Simon Gerrans and Alejandro Valverde have yet to tick.
By
AFP

7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:34 PM

However, the veteran pair have vowed to keep the dream alive and take it up to the youngster over the next three years, making him earn any future victories.

Australia's Gerrans, who was beaten into second in Ponferrada, Spain by Poland's Kwiatkowski, while Spaniard Valverde came third, said that the three World Championship medallists would continue battling in one-day classics over the years to come.

What was significant about that result was that they were the three main protagonists back in April during the Ardennes Classics.

Gerrans won Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Valverde was second in that but won Fleche Wallonne and Kwiatkowski was third in both of those. All three also secured top five finishes at the Amstel Gold.

Kwiatkowski is only 24 and while he has yet to win a one-day Classic, he is tipped by many to break his duck before long.

Gerrans and Valverde may both be 34 but have recently signed new contracts with Orica GreenEDGE and Movistar respectively, remaining in the hunt for an elusive world title.

"Obviously Michal has a few more years ahead of him than Alejandro and I," said Gerrans.

"The three of us have had some great battles this year but Alejandro has renewed his contract for three years and I've done the same thing so I think we'll have a few more great battles in the years to come."

With six career world championship medals to his name, Valverde said he certainly wasn't planning on moving over for the younger generation just yet.

"I've signed for the team for another three years. I'll always fight and keep going with ambition," said Valverde.

"Kwiatkowski's a great rider, I told him that before the race and again after the race. He's tactically very strong, he has great potential, he's a dangerous rider.

"He's younger than us and, as Simon said, he'll have more opportunities, but I think we'll still be around for a lot longer to make things hard for him."

The diminuitive Kwiatkowski had already been marked for greatness by many cycling pundits and the world championship is just the latest confirmation of that judgment.

So immense are his career possibilities that he has yet to decide which way he will eventually lean. Is he the perfect embodiment of a classics rider? Or can he mold himself into a Grand Tour winner?

Like many of the riders in the top-ten at Ponferrada, Kwiatkowski is versatile, thought without the finishing kick riders like Gerrans and Valverde possess, but that may not matter in the long term.

Kwiatkowski said he may one day reassess his objectives and focus on the Grand Tours, he was 11th at the Tour de France in his debut last year, but for the moment he is targeting success in the one-day Classics.

Having had an excellent start to the year where he beat Peter Sagan at the Strade Bianche Italian classic, he went on to claim the Volta ao Algarve and finished second in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco before his three top five finishes at the Ardennes Classics, faltering only in the middle part of the season with a disappointing 28th placed finish at the Tour de France.

But the young Pole said it was normal for him to get tired at around that time and all he needed was some rest to come back refreshed for his tilt at the world title.

"When you're 24 and the season is so long, starting racing in January and finishing in October, it's difficult to find straight away the perfect race programme for your body," he said.

"But I'm in the best team (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) to find my way. I made such a step forward in the Classics, that's what I learnt from this year.

"I still cannot say what my possibilities are in Grand Tours but it's not really the time to check myself in Grand Tours because being a Grand Tour rider needs a lot of experience and you need to sacrifice the rest of the races.

"But for the moment I like the Classics and I still (have time) to think about my future."

Michal Kwiatkowski by the numbers:

Date of birth: June 2, 1990
Place of birth: Dzialyn, Poland
Height: 1m76
Weight: 68kg
Nickname: Flower Power
Country: Poland
Teams: MG Kvis-Norda Pacific (2009), Caja Rural (2010), Team RadioShack (2011), Omega Pharma-QuickStep (2012-)

Major results:

Grand Tours - Tour de France (3rd in young riders standings 2013/2014)

Stage races - 2nd Tour of Poland (2012), 1st Volta ao Algarve (2014) 2nd (2013), 2nd Vuelta al Pais Vasco (2014), 2nd Tour of Britain (2014)

One day races - 1st Polish national championships (2013), 1st Strade Bianche (2014), 3rd Fleche Wallonne (2014), 3rd Liege-Bastogne-Liege (2014), 4th Amstel Gold (2013), 1st World Championships road race (2014)

Time trials - World junior champion (2008), Polish champion (2014), World team champion (2013)