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Worlds’14 Men’s RR: Kwiatkowski’s Pole Position!

Race report: Poland got everything right today, with the super-classy Michal Kwiatkowski putting the rainbow-colored gloss on a perfect team performance. Just when you wondered whether a dedicated chase which burned out half their team was a waste, Kwiatkowski soloed across to, and away from, a late escape group, and flew to a perfect solo Worlds victory.

The rainbow jersey will now rest on the shoulders of one of the sport’s most talented young riders. Kwiatkowski took his chance with a wonderfully-timed move. As a four-man group desperately tried to hold off the chasing peloton, Kwiatkowski made what seemed like a mistimed move, jumping off the front of the main field.

The approach to the final climb of the Mirador was where it all finally exploded, and the young Pole opened just enough of a gap to hang on. Phillipe Gilbert frantically chased for Greg Van Avermaet as an absolute galaxy of stars vied for the medals – Gerrans, Gallopin, Valverde, Cancellara.

The Pole glanced back with 300 meters to go, shook his head in disbelief, and then started to slow as he neared the line. The chase got closer, closer, closer … but Kwiatkowski had all he needed. Just one second of an advantage as he rolled to victory, kissing the iconic Polish eagle emblem on is jersey, as Australia’s Simon Gerrans took silver. Alejandro Valverde took his fourth bronze medal, his sixth worlds medal in all.

Just missing out, after hiding perfectly in the wheels, was Denmark’s Matti Breschel. With Greg Van Avermaet in close attendance, too.

How it went down: It was 14 laps x 18.2 kms, and the route profile was … strength-sapping. Two climbs on each lap, with the longer, more gradual Confederación coming first, topping out just beyond half-distance. Then the shorter, nastier Mirador, which was viewed as a possible launchpad for a race-winning attack. The last couple of kilometers of each circuit were flat, though, which offered a chance to regroup or sneak away when everyone else was looking around.

As someone used to tell me when I was a kid, the angels were baking cakes today. Sunshine through the rain, raindrops over the sunshine. The early break went, as is traditional: Quintero for Colombia, Kvasina of Croatia, Polivoda (Ukraine), Savickas of Lithuania. Michal Golas of Poland and the Greek Georgios Bouglas tried to get up to them, but the ship had sailed.

By the end of lap five, the gap was over 15 minutes, but the bigger story was Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali’s tangle and tumble in Ponferrada town centre. One of half a dozen riders to fall, Nibali banged up his left hip, and looked thoroughly miserable as he gradually ground his way back to the peloton.

The Polish team hit the front en masse and started to bring some order to proceedings, chipping away at the advantage.

Eight laps to go, and the Polish team still towed things along, with a couple of Argentinians and then a little knot of Australians behind them. Basically it looked the same over the next lap, too. The subtle difference was that the Poles had scoured another couple of minutes off the lead, now down to just under eleven minutes. The average speed was sitting at 38.6kms/h as Savickas led the break through with six laps to go. The sun was out now, and the road drying up.

worlds14-flagsThe sun and the fans came out in the end

With 100kms to go the lead was exactly eight minutes and twenty seconds. Plunging down the Mirador towards the finish line again, the pace was noticeably faster, with the field starting to string out.

Polivoda puffed out his cheeks, Kvasina grimaced, Quintero and Savickas looked OK, as the foursome cruised through the finish line. Poland’s forcing had slashed the gap, and now Spain and Great Britain started to loom behind them.

Four laps to go: Italy started the fireworks, on the descent off the Mirador and suddenly the race had come alive. The leaders were still hanging in there, but their time was just about up.

World Championships (Men Elite) 2014The day didn’t quite go as planned for Cancellara and Degenkolb

It was about two minutes as the Italians and Belgians tore through the finish area. Half of the Polish team had done their jobs and retired.

Inside three laps to go (50kms) and a new break had coalesced, with the former foursome long swept up. Involved were Visconti (Italy), Tony Martin (Germany) and Dani Navarro (Spain), all playing cards for their teams behind them. Australia were keeping things in check on the front of the main peloton.

30 kms to go, and Visconti had been joined by Peter Kennaugh (GB) but their gap was pretty tenuous, and they rode up the early part of Confederación looking over their shoulders. Michael Albasini (Switzerland) led the chase group, a multinational effort.

World Championships (Men Elite) 2014Germany’s Tony Martin gave it a go

Next to jump were Alessandro De Marchi (Italy), water sloshing off his rear wheel. He was joined by Michael Valgren (Denmark) and the French rider Cyril Gautier. Soon afterwards, the news came that Nibali was dropped by the peloton.

24kms to go and De Marchi/Gautier/Valgren had 24 seconds. Two counter attackers flew out of the tunnel, with Vasil Kiriyenka (Belorus) hauling himself to the front. At the top of the Mirador, the three leaders had a shattered chase behind them, with the bulk of the peloton at just inside a minute.

The front trio took the bell in deep discussion: Gautier chattering, De Marchi gesturing, Valgren nodding, with Kiriyenka finally making contact. Vanmarcke (Belgium), the Aussie Clarke and a handful of riders came through at 30 seconds, and a reduced peloton at 44 seconds. It looked like a combined Spanish/Albasini chase, tagging the lead at 35 seconds, as Kiriyenka led the escape past the castle and onto Confederación for the last time. Gautier sat on the back of the escape, Kiriyenka sat on the front, as the peloton closed to 28 seconds.

World Championships (Men Elite) 2014The wrong mix of riders in this break

12kms to go: a mass of Italians shadowed the lone Spaniard on the front of the peloton. Hovering nearby were Valverde (Spain), Roche (Ireland), Boonen (Belgium) and Cancellara (Switzerland).

9kms left: the peloton was only 13 seconds behind as they descended towards the tunnel at the foot of the Mirador.

6.8kms to race: Kwiatkowski, after all the work of his Polish team, jumped off the peloton and straight up to the break. The Pole blasted away, and while Valgren and De Marchi went with him, Kiriyenka and Gautier were blown out. Spain, Belgium and Denmark tried to organise the peloton’s chase as Kwiatkowski hammered up the Mirador for the last time.

World Championships (Men Elite) 2014Kwiatkowski made his big move…and that was it

5kms to go: Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) made his move, as Kwiatkowski opened up daylight behind him. Gerrans, Gilbert, Gallopin, Van Avermaet were all hanging on. The solo Pole belted down the Mirador, hands draped over the bars, as an elite chase came behind him.

World Championships (Men Elite) 2014
Heart-in-mouth time as Kwiatkowski dropped down onto his top tube … and calmly looked round, the damp road swishing underneath him. Where was the chase? 2kms left, and still the Polish rider led, as Valverde now dragged the chase.

Ultimately, it was all too late, as he form rider Gerrans and the serial podium finisher Valverde were just too far behind to get on terms.

World Championships (Men Elite) 2014
Many congratulations to Poland and Michal Kwiatkowski on a fantastic team performance. We can look forward to a dynamic world champion’s year in 2015.

Keep it Pez for all the Eurotrash feedback tomorrow!

Men’s World Road Race Championship Result:
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) in 6:29:07
2. Simon Gerrans (Australia) at 0:01
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spain)
4. Matti Breschel (Denmark)
5. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)
6. Tony Gallopin (France)
7. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) at 0:04
8. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) at 0:07
9. John Degenkolb (Germany)
10. Nacer Bouhanni (France)
11. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)
12. Ben Swift (Great Britain)
13. Sonny Colbrelli (Italy)
14. Michael Matthews (Australia)
15. Ramunas Navardauskas (Lithuania)
16. Daryl Impey (South Africa)
17. Maciej Paterski (Poland)
18. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands)
19. Warren Barguil (France)
20. Michael Valgren Andersen (Denmark).

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