Michal Kwiatkowski is happy and proud and above all grateful after his stage victory in the Tour de France on Thursday.
The Pole received the day's success as a gift from his INEOS teammate Richard Carapaz, with whom he crossed the finish line together.
"I have had many beautiful moments in cycling, but this was a new experience," said 30-year-old Kwiatkowski, world champion in 2014, about the end of the eighteenth stage.
"It's really incomparable to any other win of mine. I don't know if it's the magic of the Tour or the way we drove. We've really put on a great show."
It was not exciting in the last meters, because Kwiatkowski was left with his teammate Carapaz after 168 kilometers.
They had shaken off all other escapees.
Kwiatkowski and Carapaz did not make it a sprint-a-deux, but hugged each other extensively before the finish and crossed the line side by side.
Kwiatkowski's wheel crossed the line just a little earlier, as agreed, while his Ecuadorian teammate took the lead in the mountain classification.
"I would have preferred to discuss it with Richard over a cup of coffee, but that's difficult when you're going 50 kilometers per hour," Kwiatkowski said.
Richard's first goal was to take mountain points. When we knew he was going to get it, he said I could win the stage. On one condition, he has the mountain jersey in Paris. So now I have to figure out how to recover and "Richard can help win that jersey. I'll do anything for him. He gave me the victory, I'll never forget that."
The difference between Michal Kwiatkowski and teammate Richard Carapaz. (Photo: Pro Shots)
The difference between Michal Kwiatkowski and teammate Richard Carapaz.
(Photo: Pro Shots)
'I had goosebumps from the top'
INEOS was also ready for success after defending champion Egan Bernal stepped down.
The Colombian lost a lot of time last week compared to yellow jersey wearer Primoz Roglic and decided to end his Tour on Wednesday, partly due to back pain.
Kwiatkowski hopes that the day success of the British formation will do Bernal well.
"We spoke to Egan this morning. He was obviously disappointed, but he wished us good luck. I hope he enjoyed watching the last kilometers."
The stage winner thoroughly enjoyed the last Alpine stage.
"It was very emotional. I had goosebumps from the top of the last climb. We know how hard we worked for this and are going to celebrate the win tonight. We deserved it."
The Tour continues on Friday with a hill stage over 160 kilometers, which may end with a mass sprint.
It does not appear that Roglic's leadership position will be compromised.
Tom Dumoulin is the best Dutchman in ninth place.
See also: Stage 19: Sprinters get penultimate chance of stage victory