Kwiatkowski: “Life experience has taught me that you have to be patient”

Interview

Benoit Cosnefroy was briefly the winner of the Amstel Gold Race 2022. But just like last year, the photo finish had to be involved. Then Tom Pidcock was relegated to second place in favor of Wout van Aert. This year, after studying the images, Michał Kwiatkowski was still selected as the winner. The Pole thus acquired his second victory in the Dutch classic seven years later. “A roller coaster!”

“I didn’t think about it being so long ago,” says the 2014 world champion afterwards. “The last months and weeks have been very difficult for me. I don’t look back much further than that. Seven years is a huge period. It is more important what happened yesterday and the last week.”

Kwiatek at the start of the race – photo: Cor Vos

Setback
The 31-year-old INEOS Grenadiers rider had a difficult start to the year, which put both his physical and mental well-being to the test. “It was a difficult start to the season. Due to a corona infection in February, I had to overhaul and rebuild my entire competition program. After the Tour of Catalonia (which he left after two stages, ed.) I was struck by the flu. My family also got sick then. I got the feeling that everything was going in the wrong direction, but look… Here I am as the winner of the Amstel Gold Race!” beams the Pole.

With his teammate Tom Pidcock as one of the top favourites, INEOS Grenadiers started the 254.1 kilometers through the Limburg hilly landscape. The British team dominated the race by taking control almost the entire race. “The team drove amazingly. We executed the course plan that we made beforehand to perfection. We have taken our responsibility and responded to all attacks. From the start of the race with Laurens De Plus, Luke Rowe and after that we really put pressure on Ben Turner from the Kruisberg.”

Tactics
“We also put extra pressure on the Keutenberg, as a result of which the group with favorites further thinned out. That put us in a comfortable position with two strong riders in the front group. I discussed with Tom (Pidcock, ed.) which tactics we were going to use. We were convinced to take advantage of our numerical surplus at the right time. On the Cauberg (where Pidcock attacked, ed.) and Bemelerberg, who climb deep into the final, you can play it tactically when you are sitting in front with two men. With Dylan van Baarle, we also had someone in the second group who could wait.”

Kwiatkowski has only a small lead on the penultimate passage at the finish – photo: Raymond Kerckhoffs

With 22 kilometers to go – just before the last crossing at the finish – Kwiatkowski jumped away in stocking feet. That was just after Pidcock thinned out the group of favorites even further on the spur of the Cauberg. On the Geulhemmerberg only Cosnefroy made the crossing. “When he joined me, it was up to him to defend the lead. I let him do most of the work because I heard over the radio that Pidcock was still in the chasing group. For me, only winning the match mattered. Because everything went according to plan, I couldn’t imagine myself in second place.”

final sprint
Still, the former winner of Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche had to get used to that thought. Wrongly indeed. The duo managed to stay ahead and in the all-deciding sprint a deux the difference between the Frenchman and the Pole on the television images was not to be. “I knew there was a headwind in the finish line so I decided to start my sprint late, in hindsight maybe too late. When I got next to him, it turned out that Cosnefroy still had some in the tank. That surprised me.”

Nevertheless, immediately after the finish, the finish commissioner of the race jury declared the young Frenchman the winner, much to the delight of the 26-year-old rider of AG2R Citroën. “He thought he won. What can I say… Life experience has taught me that you have to be patient”, reflects Kwiatkowski.

This is the controversial photofinity of the Amstel Gold Race 2022

blunder
“For me it was very disappointing to hear that I had not won. I was already making excuses to my teammates because they really counted on us (Kwiatkowski and Pidcock, ed.), and I counted on myself. It was a bit difficult to hear that I was second, but that turned into pure joy when I heard that I had won.”

Another blunder from the competition jury. The finish commissioner had already declared Cosnefroy the winner before the photo finish had been studied. This clearly showed that it was not Cosnefroy, but that Kwiatkowski’s front wheel crossed the line first. “In 2017 I was in the same situation in Milan-San Remo. Then immediately after the finish we didn’t know who had won the race. In the end I turned out to be that.” At the time, Kwiatkowski defeated Peter Sagan and Julian Alaphilippe in a millimeter sprint on the Via Roma in San Remo.

“Today was a rollercoaster. Very emotional, but it’s so nice to be back, especially after all the setbacks.”

Cheers to life, Michał! – photo: Cor Vos

Competition program