Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) stole away on the descent of the penultimate climb and held off a Belgian-Spanish organised chase to the finish to become the 2014 Men’s Road Race World Champion. Simon Gerrans (Australia) and Alejandro Valverde (Spain), both strong favourites for the win, rounded out the podium.
This year’s parcours of 254km, consisting of 14 circuits and two small climbs each lap, wasn’t nearly as difficult as it had been talked up to be earlier in the summer. Any vital whittling of the peloton to leave just the creme de la creme to battle it out – had to be forced by some of the bigger teams riding hard throughout the race to tire out the weaklings before the final laps began.
That was the plan anyway. As it was, what with a rainy start (it only brightened up about four laps from the end), the peloton let a four-man break get a gap of more than 15 minutes by the fourth lap. Circuits always seem to be tours through Snoozeville for the majority of the day and this was no exception. There was a tiny flurry of excitement when it looked like the four-man break might actually lap the peloton but pride or good sense prevailed and the peloton started to slowly reel them in.
Fast forward to the final action and after his Polish team had done so much work on the front chasing the break, Michal Kwiatkowski picks the descent of the penultimate climb to almost sneak away from a slimmed down peloton and bridge to a new break of four. Kwiatkowski is one of those riders who have no fear on a descent and he was practically bunched up on his crossbar to get as aero as possible.
And he took precious seconds before anyone realised what was going on! Bridging to the four-man break, he sat on the back to catch his breath, to lull them into a false sense of security, to give everyone just a little pause before blasting past the four to take the short, sharp climb of the Mirador on his own.
“What’s he doing? Is he a threat? What should we do? I know! Let’s all look blankly at one another!” Finally, Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) came out of the peloton for the chase, followed by Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) riding with (and for) teammate Greg Van Avermaet. This brought Alejandro Valverde into play as well as Simon Gerrans – both wanting those stripes across their chests by the end of the day.
But Kwiatkowski had enough time and enough gumption to hold them off, until he sat up, starting kissing his jersey while the entire viewing audience screamed, ‘KEEP PEDALLING’ as it looked like he was going to get swamped at the very line by the chasing group. But they didn’t catch him, he went over the finish line by himself with one second to spare and into the arms of his team (most of whom had abandoned with four laps to go) to become Poland’s first Men’s Elite World Champion. Flower Power rules.
The Worlds and the Olympics are raced according to national teams (okay, the TTT is a team event but …). What I always find fascinating is how allegiances are played out on the road in these circumstances. Last year, we saw some bizarre riding from Valverde if his prime objective was to help his countryman Joaquim Rodriguez win the race. But it wasn’t so bizarre if you think that maybe he was in fact helping his Movistar teammate Rui Costa beat Purito.
Today’s conundrums were as follows: Tony Martin (Germany) took a solo flyer with three laps to go and looked to be time trialling the rest of the peloton to pieces. Was he working for his German teammates, particularly John Degenkolb, when he did this? Was he looking for individual glory with an audacious power ride to the finish from far out? Or was he looking to help Kwiatkowski, his teammate on Omega Pharma-Quickstep? Or a combination of the three?
Same with Michael Albasini: he did an enormous amount of work in breaks and chasing breaks all day. When you saw a Swiss jersey, it was usually him. And he was working for Fabian Cancellara, right? Or was he working for his Orica-GreenEDGE teammate Simon Gerrans? Or was he making it up as he went along? We may never know.
This isn’t to call out those for disloyalty. It was obvious that Bernie Eisel was riding for Mark Cavendish in the 2012 Olympics – teammates, bromance, Austria wasn’t going to win anything – it happens. Besides, at the end of the day, who wouldn’t want the rainbow jersey to be in their team for a year?
Show the podium
It has been a season of not seeing the podium presentations. I don’t know if there’s been a new directive coming down from above to Eurosport, ITV and BBC but more often than not, it seems, the programming gods have shoehorned in county boules matches rather than wait for the few minutes it takes to see riders get their jerseys. This has happened in pretty much all of the Grand Tours this year.
Today was just astonishing. The biggest single-day race in Michal Kwiatkowski’s career – and of the racing year – and the BBC decided to let Rob Hayles and Jonathan Edwards talk about why Ben Swift didn’t win, show films about Bradley Wiggins and women’s racing (both worthy subjects) while we could hear the podium music being played in the background! Not a sniff of the podium!
This shows two things: 1) a complete lack of respect for the riders and the fans (the podium is part of the race!) and 2) that the BBC thinks the only reason anyone would watch cycling was to see a British rider win. If they don’t win, who the hell cares who did? Could you imagine them doing that at Wimbledon? Me neither. End of rant.
1 Michał Kwiatkowski (Poland) 6:29:07
2 Simon Gerrans (Australia) 0:00:01
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spain) same time
4 Matti Breschel (Denmark) s/t
5 Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) s/t
6 Tony Gallopin (France) s/t
7 Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) 6:29:11
8 Alexander Kristoff (Norway) 6:29:14
9 John Degenkolb (Germany) s/t
10 Nacer Bouhanni (France) s/t