The buoyancy of Michal Kwiatkowski
It’s always good to know that a win isn’t a fluke and being as the World Championships finished with the same three riders on the podium as in this year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege (albeit in a different order), we can reassure ourselves that the cream did indeed rise to the top.
If it had been a sprint…
Then it seems Alexander Kristoff would have won. The Milan-San Remo winner once again showed that the longer the race, the better he endures compares to others. He was first across the line from what remained of the peloton, ahead of John Degenkolb and then Nacer Bouhanni – who managed to cope with the climbs as I predicted. Fabian Cancellara was next ahead of the first Brit home, Ben Swift.
For what it’s worth, Chris Froome again failed to finish. He seems to be rather shit at one-day races, which perhaps reflects the fact that, like Bradley Wiggins, he is more of an endurance rider than one blessed with unusual pace.
But it wasn’t a sprint
Unfortunately for Kristoff, six riders had already finished by the time he crossed the line. Joaquim Rodriguez attacked at the top of the final climb and was followed by Philippe Gilbert among others.
Or, as Gilbert himself put it:
“When I saw Rodriguez going, I didn’t panic. I waited five or six seconds and then I came over him.”
Rodriguez faded with Simon Gerrans eventually showing himself to be the fastest of the group, ahead of Alejandro Valverde.
It was Valverde’s third World Championships bronze medal in a row and his sixth podium finish yet he doesn’t have a win. I’ve said before that he’s always worth beating and after this latest near-miss, I feel moved to dub him Queen of the Bridesmaids.
Could Valverde’s bronze have been silver? Michal Kwiatkowski had attacked with 7km to go and no-one had gone with him. After a short breather behind a few riders who’d been in a break – and who were swallowed up by the bunch shortly afterwards – he pushed on again and no-one could close the gap.
Valverde’s view of what happened was:
“We all worked together. Gilbert worked hard in the last kilometre.”
This perhaps reflects Valverde’s idiosyncratic perception of what constitutes ‘working well together’ – namely, that someone else will work and he’ll sit behind them.
Gilbert himself said he didn’t understand the tactics of the riders he was with after repeatedly asking for assistance at the front and failing to get it.
So the Polish cream of Michal Kwiatkowski ended up being the most buoyant of all, but it was also good to see the Australian cream of Simon Gerrans and the Spanish cream of Alejandro Valverde up there. Even at the time of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, I was describing this trio as being the form riders of 2014. Kwiatkowski in particular is a rider who is on the up-and-up, which makes him a perfect world champion.