Getting closer: Kasia Niewiadoma on remaining optimistic about her own victory after a promising Flanders podium

The Polish rider put on an impressive display at the Tour of Flanders finishing in second place, but is without a victory since 2019

Journalists are supposed to remain impartial, but there was a collective sigh of disappointment in the press room when Kasia Niewiadoma crossed the finish line in second place at the 2024 edition of the Tour of Flanders. Maybe it’s her brave, attacking racing style, or her candid and funny post-race interviews, but it’s hard not to root for the Canyon//SRAM rider when she’s come so close to victory so many times. 

Of course, runner-up in De Ronde is still a formidable result, and one that Niewiadoma herself was rightly proud of after the race: “I'm happy to be honest, because 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 told media, her mouth full with Haribo sweets and her face stained with mud.

“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. The approach to that climb was insane, but I was able to get in the top-10 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 [Elisa] Longo Borghini and then go all out to the finish line.”

The Polish rider, once again, raced with tenacity and grit in Flanders, which is something that we have come to expect from Niewiadoma. It was a similar story at Strade Bianche a few weeks ago when she animated the race but finished in fourth place after eventually being outnumbered by SD Worx. It was the same at Amstel Gold Race last year when she finished in fourth place, the same at the 2023 Tour de France Femmes when she finished second on the queen stage, and the same at Strade Bianche the year before that. In fact, Niewiadoma’s last victory on the road was in 2019 in a stage of the Women’s Tour. Since then, she’s been tantalisingly close to more success, but always, painfully, heartbreakingly, it never quite happens for the 29-year-old.

Niewiadoma’s qualities of being able to put out repeated punchy attacks can often work against her as much as they can be a strength. She’s a rider who races with heart, but sometimes fails to use her head. Her attacks don’t lack power or speed, but they can lack timing and execution. Niewiadoma often finds herself outnumbered by stronger teams like SD Worx-Protime or Lidl-Trek, struggling to know how to navigate a group in which she is the only rider wearing a Canyon//SRAM jersey.

At the Tour of Flanders, Niewiadoma found her way into the front selection of riders after navigating the precarious slopes of the Koppenberg, but eventually ended up in a winning move with two Lidl-Trek riders in Longo Borghini and Shirin van Anrooij. Despite the American team having a numerical advantage, Niewiadoma still came through and pulled turns on the front of the trio in the brutal Belgian winds, and many questioned if this tactic really made sense. Niewiadoma herself argued that there wasn’t much more she could have done in Flanders, however.

“I did not consider not working. 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 [Lorena] Wiebes, Lotte [Kopecky] or [Silvia] Persico are faster than me. I think in racing you've got to invest if you want to win,” Niewiadoma stated.

If she had more teammates in the front group with her in Flanders, Niewiadoma would undoubtedly have had better chances of winning the race. It’s a problem that Canyon//SRAM face often, but something that Niewiadoma argues is more down to bad luck than a lack of strength within the squad.

“We just need to be patient. I believe that we have a strong team, maybe today we missed some luck for some of the riders like Chloe [Dygert] had to walk up the climb and they had to face some difficulties when it comes to crashes and being maybe not perfectly positioned,” Niewiadoma said. “So I think that with more experience and just a bit more luck on our side, we can turn things around.”

If Niewiadoma is starting to make a name for herself as the eternal second in bike races, she should also be regarded as the eternal optimist. The Canyon//SRAM rider was determined to focus on the positives of her performance, rather than the fact that she’d narrowly missed out on victory once again. It’s this ability to remain level-headed and balanced that has kept Niewiadoma successful for so long, and it’s her plucky attitude that will surely be rewarded with the top step of the podium one day.

“This is my first podium at Flanders. I'm happy with my shape,” Niewiadoma smiled. “I think as a team we are very optimistic towards the future. 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.”

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