Riding is Life


A woman covered in mud races her bike up a steep hill.

Kasia Niewiadoma takes a more tactical approach to the podium at Tour of Flanders

The seasoned rider known for her attacking style harnessed her energy towards a second place on Sunday.

Abby Mickey
by Abby Mickey 31.03.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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There are a few things we can count on in life. One of them is that Kasia Niewiadoma will attack in a bike race. And attack again, and again. But at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday it was a different Niewiadoma we saw riding in the rain. Sure, she threw down an attack or two, but what mattered was where those matches were spent.

For years now Niewiadoma has won hearts worldwide by being one of the most active riders in the race. If there is ever a lull, it’s Niewiadoma who will make the first move. A lot of the time the Polish rider leaves fans at home shouting at the screen, begging her to do less while simultaneously loving the way she animates the races.

Last year at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, Niewiadoma watched and waited during the seventh stage – the Queen stage – for the right moment. The patience delivered her to second place on the day, and third overall.

It was a turning point for Niewiadoma, as we found out on Sunday in Flanders. Second place is proof of not only good legs but a new mindset, a more tactical one one focused on continuous improvement.

β€œTo 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,” Niewiadoma said. “So the fact that I feel myself getting stronger and being able to drop Demi and Lotte on a climb is very motivating.”

Only 29 now, Niewiadoma first signed a professional contract in 2014 with Rabo Liv. She would go on to ride for them through 2016 before spending a year at WM3 and eventually finding a long-term home at Canyon-SRAM. In those years she rode alongside the best of the best. She’s been teammates with Lucinda Brand, Anna van der Breggen, Marianne Vos and Annemiek van Vleuten.

Her move to Canyon-SRAM was the most pivotal of her career. When she left WM3 and went to the German team she went from riding with Vos as the de facto leader to being at the top of the team. The German team had other heavy hitters in Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, Tiffany Cromwell, and Alena Amialiusik but by that point, Ferrand-Prevot was focused on mountain biking, Amialiusik was still coming through the ranks, and Cromwell was shifting into being more of a captain on the road.

It was her attacking style that won Niewiadoma her first WorldTour one day. On a rainy day in Italy, not too dissimilar to Sunday’s conditions, Niewiadoma took her chances on the descents and walked away with victory at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. She would go on to win the Amstel Gold Race a year later in a similar style – by being the one willing to put it all on the line.

But after her Amstel Gold Race win in 2019 the peloton started to catch on. Teams started to watch her and track her movements. Those attacks started to become futile and over time they were energy wasted. She won the fourth stage of the Women’s Tour [of Britain] later that same year but the following three years were dry for Niewiadoma.

Always one to watch at the start of a race, it wasn’t until the Gravel World Championships in 2023 that she finally took another victory.

Now, ten years into her career, she is doing what all great champions do. She is looking at the race around her and adapting her tactics.

On Sunday, she only attacked when SD Worx-Protime were on the back foot. Demi Vollering couldn’t shadow her, because Vollering wasn’t in the leading group. As soon as the attack didn’t stick, Niewiadoma sat on. On the Paterberg she followed Elisa Longo Borghini instead of setting the pace herself, and she used that energy to help keep a gap from the chasing group behind. The energy she may have used by animating the race a year ago.

β€œI did not consider not working,” she said at the finish. “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’.”

It wasn’t that Niewiadoma was doing less in the race. The effort she put forth was directed differently, tactically, to how she has ridden in the past. Neither right, nor wrong, but on Sunday it worked in her favour to play a slightly different game.

“I knew that by riding I got bigger chances of making it to the last hundred meters 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.”

This will not be the end of the brash, fearless Niewiadoma we all know and love, but rather a reforging of the rider we all believe her to be. Second place at the Tour of Flanders is only the beginning.

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