• Kwiatkowski (Sky) returns to the Amstel Gold Race as the defending champ (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) has a diplomatic persona that belies a killer instinct and confidence true to all champions.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
17 Apr 2016 - 1:17 PM 

The 25-year-old will employ that at Amstel Gold tonight when he attempts to defend his race title in new team Sky colours and with the full backing of the British powerhouse.

Kwiatkowski left Etixx-QuickStep for Sky at the end of last season and has effortlessly assimilated with the ethos of the squad and impressed top brass management and riders, who he was already on a nickname basis with in January.

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“He is confident. I think you saw that when he won the [2014] World Championships, when he put his national team on the front after 25km, they rode the whole day and he went away and won,” Sky sports director Kurt Asle Arvesen aptly observed.

“He’s a good leader. You know, it’s easy to be a leader when you’re at his capacity and he delivers and everyone will buy in and give 110 per cent for him. It’s pretty easy. He is in general [also] a really good guy and it’s always easier to help a good bike rider and a good guy than only a good bike rider.”

Kwiatkowski has an impressive history at Amstel and in four career starts has only finished outside of the top five once in 2012 when he recorded a DNF on race debut. Last year, he powered clear of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) to take line honours by about a bike length from what was a small group finish.  

“It’s always difficult to defend a title but I think he is ready and he will have a go. If it’s good enough to win again that’s hard to say,” Asle Arvesen said. “I think there’s a lot of good guys out there who could win so it’s always difficult to predict but he’s as good as he can be.”

The Pole has had a successful season with his new outfit to date despite an illness that prevented him from co-leading at the Volta ao Algarve in February, which team-mate Geraint Thomas won.

“He got sick before Algarve and couldn’t race there so he missed some racing but came back and won E3 [Harelbeke] and he’s on track for this block,” Arvesen said.

“I think that victory in E3 gave him the confidence he needed. He’s been in Spain training hard and has the team behind him.

“He’s dialed in training wise and more the guy you need to hold back than you need to push.”

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