Etixx - Quick-Step rider Michal Kwiatkowski won the Most Aggressive Rider Award of 195km Le Tour de France Stage 12, from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille, on Thursday. He was selected for the award after entering into a large breakaway, going ahead with two other riders with 75km to go, and then pressing on alone on the HC Plateau de Beille (15.8 km, 7.9%) with 13.6km remaining in the race.
The peloton remained more than 10 minutes behind inside 12km left to race. The Polish rider of Etixx - Quick-Step emptied the tank on the final climb, but was unable to stay away on the steepest slopes. Kwiatkowski was eventually caught by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), who initially chased with several other riders but attacked to bridge by himself, with 7.6km to go. Rodriguez went on to win the stage solo.
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) was 2nd, and Romain Bardet (AG2R - La Mondiale) was 3rd.
Kwiatkowski was not just impressive on the four steep climbs of the day. The UCI World Road Champion also used his descending skills to rejoin the original escape group of 22 riders earlier in the stage, and then distance most of the other former break mates in the final kilometers. Kwiatkowski went away with Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL - Jumbo) at the 75km to go mark, but Preidler lost contact with 57.2km remaining. Kwiatkowski and Vanmarcke maintained a 1'04" advantage to the other breakaway members after the top of Cat. 1 Port de Lers (12.9km, 6%).
Eventually Vanmarcke was unable to contribute to the breakaway effort, and Kwiatkowski chose to press on alone in an attempt to get a fourth Tour de France stage win for Etixx - Quick-Step in the 2015 edition. Rodriguez, Fuglsang, and Bardet attacked each other repeatedly on the last climb before eventually splitting up in the successful pursuit of Kwiatkowski.
The GC group also attacked each other relentlessly on the final climb, but were unable to put much time into each other upon arrival.
Kwiatkowski has won the Most Aggressive Rider award twice so far at Le Tour.
Etixx - Quick-Step looks next to 198.5km Stage 13, from Muret to Rodez, on Friday. Thare are three climbs of lower category to ascend, with summits between kilometer 131 and 167, but there is also an uncategorized climb before descending into the finish.
“It’s a pity I couldn’t handle the power necessary to stay away on the last climb,” Kwiatkowski said. “It was really steep after a long day out front. Being caught 7.6 kilometers from the finish is too bad, but for me it was a bit unexpected to be in that breakaway in the first place. It was many guys and a lot of strong climbers. I think Sep and I did a great move to stay away from the pure climbers. I think it was smart to be aggressive on the descent before the last climb and build the gap. We worked together well and I’m thankful to him. We played the best tactic possible for our skills. It was too bad we didn’t have enough of a gap to stay away. I couldn’t have done any better than what I did. The rain was even nice to cool off from the heat we dealt with all day, especially with the high temperatures we’ve also been dealing with in the last stages. I tried to fight until the end. It wasn’t enough to win a stage, but I’m happy my performance is getting better and better each day. Congratulations to Rodriguez as he deserved the victory today. He was super strong and he is one of the best climbers in the peloton. I am happy I tried to go for the stage win. I have to be satisfied because you can’t win if you don’t try. It’s a wonderful feeling to do something like this and honor the rainbow jersey in a Tour de France stage. I’m proud to wear it and hope people can appreciate my effort today. There’s still a long way to go to Paris. I’m motivated, the team is motivated, and for sure we’ll try again when there is an opportunity for Etixx – Quick-Step.”