No regrets for Kasia Niewiadoma after gutsy second at Tour of Flanders

‘I feel myself getting stronger’ says Canyon-SRAM leader after distancing Demi Vollering and Lotte Kopecky

Clock18:56, Sunday 31st March 2024
Kasia Niewiadoma rode strongly at Flanders, but she is still searching for that elusive win

© Getty Images

Kasia Niewiadoma rode strongly at Flanders, but she is still searching for that elusive win

When the second places and podiums wrack up as much as they do for Kasia Niewiadoma, it would be easy for a rider to find some disappointment in once again just missing out on the win, but at the end of a tough Tour of Flanders, regret was far from the Canyon-SRAM rider’s mind.

On her ninth start, Niewiadoma took her first Flanders podium on Sunday, going with a strong move from eventual winner Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) and just missing out in the sprint to the Italian, who had teammate Shirin van Anrooij for support.

“This is my first podium at Flanders. I'm happy with my shape, I'm happy with the preparations, that went really well so far, so I think as a team we are very optimistic towards the future,” Niewiadoma said at the finish in Oudenaarde. “Of course, it would be amazing to win the race here, but I think that we're on a good path to win more races ahead of us.”

Read more: Tour of Flanders – Elisa Longo Borghini triumphs in the rain

Second or third in any other race may not have been so satisfying for Niewiadoma, who hasn’t taken an individual road win in several seasons, but at the end of a race like Flanders, the 29-year-old could not complain about her or Canyon-SRAM’s performance, particularly around the wet and treacherous Koppenberg.

“It was an extremely hard, hectic and dangerous race, so I'm happy that as a team we were still able to find each other in this madness,” she said.

“Especially in the key moments, we were able to put me in a position where I could benefit, because as we knew from last year, the Koppenberg was very important, so the approach to that climb was insane, to be honest, really insane. But I was able to get in the top 10 or whatever, to make it over the climb without having to walk up, so that was really a success and from there on we just played it hard.

“It's a really hard final and over the Paterberg I was happy to be actually able to get over it with Longo Borghini and then go all out to the finish line.”

On the subject of disappointment, Niewiadoma cut a very different figure from the tearful rider we saw at Strade Bianche, heartbroken after just missing out on the podium.

“To be honest, I guess I would feel disappointed if I didn't feel that I progressed or if instead of being in the final I was further behind, so the fact that I feel myself getting stronger and being able to drop Demi and Lotte on a climb is very motivating,” she said.

“Yes, there is the element of like 'oh shit I wish won' because of course this is what I've been chasing for so long, but on the other hand I feel like seeing those other pluses of shape improvement and race improvement, that gives me extra motivation to not give up and look for other opportunities.”

Any rider who manages to distance SD Worx-Protime and the world champion must be on soaring form, but the problem for Niewiadoma is that the decisive move she found herself in also contained two members of the other strongest Classics team in the peloton, Lidl-Trek.

Despite having a possible justification to shirk responsibility in the two-versus-one group, Niewiadoma worked hard in the group, which ultimately contributed to them staying away, even though Longo Borghini was likely the stronger sprinter on paper.

“I did not consider not working,” she said at the finish about her cooperation with Longo Borghini and Van Anrooij. I wasn't thinking 'I'm riding for second place or third place. I would catch myself once thinking, 'oh, the podium will be fine,' but then I quickly turned that into, 'no, I'm here to win the race'. I knew that by riding I got bigger chances of making it to the last hundred metres and then sprinting for the victory, versus playing games and then being caught by the second group, where Wiebes, Lotte or Persico are faster than me.

“I think in racing you've got to invest if you want to win. I think that Marianne Vos showed the best example of that by winning Dwars door Vlaanderen, she was riding hard and she won the race. You can only play this kind of game when you have maybe three other teammates behind you.”

Though the win may not have come off just yet, Niewiadoma clearly believes she is on the right path, and is optimistic going into the harder races to come in the Ardennes and beyond.

“We just need to be patient,” she said. “I believe that we have a strong team, maybe today we missed some luck for some of the riders. But I think that with more experience and just a bit more luck on our side, we can turn things around.”

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