Tour de France Stage 9: Kwiatkowski Fights Back in the Mountains to Get on Podium
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Michal Kwiatkowski refused to lose contact with a select group of top GC contenders in the 168.5km Stage 9 of Tour de France on Sunday.
The elite group fluctuated in number throughout the stage with Movistar setting a high pace for Nairo Quintana in the white jersey. After continuing to work his way back to the group in the final climbs out of five total in the stage, Kwiatkowski was there with them, along with yellow jersey wearer Chris Froome (Sky ProCycling) on the front as they descended Cat 1 La Hourquette d'Ancizan (9.9km, 7.5%) and headed to the finish.
Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) attacked just a few kilometers from the summit of the final climb, and were able to stay away until the finish. Martin launched his sprint first and won the stage. Kwiatkowski came through on the front of the Froome group, besting all the others in the sprint for 3rd.
There is a Tour de France rest day tomorrow.
"I'm actually happy about the stage because I suffered so much from the beginning," Kwiatkowski said. "I just want to say thank you to my teammates because they pushed me to the limit. I lost contact on the second climb. I felt really bad. But I found Matteo Trentin and Peter Velits on the road. They really helped me a lot. We suffered on the third climb but then we chased and chased and I was able to come back to the peloton on the second to last climb. That stage was really super fast and I thought today might not be my day. But Matteo and Peter, they really said 'no, you have to stay here and work with us and follow us.' I tried to finish the job they did through winning the stage but it was difficult. But I caught the group and was able to stay with the best until the final. If you consider how difficult this stage was, I am really happy and looking forward to the next stages."
"I tried to attack on the descent, it was actually not so technical and you never know what could happen," Kwiatkowski continued. "Maybe someone could have followed me. But the problem was after the descent we had a headwind to the final. As for the final, I think the chase organized well, but those two were really strong in the front. We went really fast in our group, so congratulations for them. They came to the final and they deserved it."
It was also "mission accomplished" for OPQS in the gruppetto. All riders finished well within the time cut.
"There were a lot of riders in the gruppetto with the same goal of finishing in time," Sport Director Davide Bramati said. "We took our tempo. It was a long and challenging stage, but we never were in trouble. We handled it. In the end, everybody was able to finish and we are happy. Now it's time to recover a bit tomorrow and think about the next stages."