Michał Paluta looks back at 2016 season

Michał Paluta is one of the biggest talents in Polish cycling. Two-time U23 national champion in road race has been already building up his experience in the pro races and is on the right path onto the podium of these events.

Are you satisfied with the progress you’ve made last season?

Yes, I am. Since I’ve joined CCC Sprandi Polkowice I’ve been taking big steps in terms of my development as a rider. Especially last year was very fruitful in that regard, since I had a chance to take part in the biggest races. Also the relationship with my coach Luca Quinti is growing. We’ve been getting to know each other better in the past few months and we get better understanding of how my body works. Everything is going the right direction and I hope we will be able to continue that growth.

In 2016 you had the opportunity to participate in Ronde van Vlaanderen and Tour de Pologne, one of the most prestigious races in the calendar. How do you recall those events?

My task for both of those races was to help my teammates. I gained a lot of experience and I think that next time I line up at the start among the top UCI World Tour riders it will be slightly easier. The more often you race against the best, the bigger progress you make.

Tour of Flanders was extremely hard. My average heart rate from the entire race was as high as from an hour cyclo cross race. I stayed in my bed for most of the time the next day – those cobbles, climbs, distance and pace put its toll on me. I think that the fact that it was 100th edition was also a factor and because of that more riders were eager to battle for the win. .

Tour de Pologne was also among the hardest events of the year. I will never forget the stage to Zakopane. We spent almost 7 hours in the cold and rain, on extremely demanding course. It was terrible. I just remember putting on one layer of clothing on another. My legs and body was telling me to quit, but my head was willing to fight.

Now let’s go through your biggest victories of the season. The first one came at Carpathian Couriers Race. What do you remember from that stage?

Carpathian Couriers Race is a race that fits me. The terrain is hilly, but there are no Alps-like climbs. It also goes through Poland, which gives you that extra motivation to perform well.

The stage that I won suited me perfectly. There was a KOM with 7km to go and I knew that this is where the action will happen. The group got shattered to only about 15 riders. In the descent another 30 riders bridged across. I had few of my teammates in the main group and they did a fantastic job for me. For the last 2-3 kilometers nobody was able to outpace us, so the lead-out was perfect.

In the end you finished 2nd overall.

Yes and I think victory was within my reach. The race was decided by seconds and every intermediate sprint was crucial. Unfortunately my rivals had more sprinting abilities than me.

The last stage could have changed a lot in the general classification, but we were led the wrong way and were unable to battle for the bonus seconds. The group split earlier and some of the GC contenders fell behind. Because of the pilot’s mistake we did extra 30 kilometers and arrived 20 minutes behind the group, which was 10 minutes back.

Another race was Course de la Paix U23. What memory sticks out for you from that event?

Stage 1, in which I finished 3rd. It was held on a very hard lap and the field would stretched out constantly. The finale was quite tricky and tough. After a long descent, with 350 meters to go there was a 180-degree turnaround which was followed by an uphill finish. We had to slow down, basically to a complete stop, and then start the sprint towards the line, almost like in cyclo cross.

In general, I enjoyed Course de la Paix U23, although the queen stage with a 13-kilometer climb cost me some time in the overall standings.

Afterwards you won two medals in the U23 Polish Championships – gold in the road race and silver in the time trial.

Polish Championships were one of my main goals of the season and I am really happy that I was able to defend my title and was runner-up in TT. I lost only to Patryk and I was very happy for him too. We were hoping we could go 1-2-3. That didn’t happen, but the most important thing was that the jersey went to our team.

Championship in the race against the clock is something that’s missing in my palmeras, but I still have one more chance to take it. I will try next year.

In the second part of the season you raced in Tour de l’Avenir and European Championships. Again the level of competition was really high.

At Tour de l’Avenir I was the leader of the national team for the first few stages, but later on the race got so hard that it wasn’t about strategy anymore and whoever was able to hold on in the climbs did that. I have to admit that we were not ready for racing at such high altitude. The stages would start at 2500m above the sea level and end at over 3000m. The course killed us – during a 120km stage we would do 4500m of elevation gain. I hope I will be able to use my experience next year. That’s one of my semi-goals. The main goal are the world championships in Bergen. There is a hard climb located on the circuit, there are cobblestones, the route is technical and the weather is unstable. Apparently it rains around 300 days a year in that region. I like racing in such conditions. If you can prepare for it earlier, it’s not so bad.

Do you know which way you want to go in terms of your cycling specialty?

I don’t want to choose particular specialty at this stage of my career. At this point I want to be versatile rider, so I can be valuable for the team and team leaders. I feel that I am at my best on undulating, but fast courses, with short and steep climbs. Maybe that’s the direction I should take in the future, at the same time not forgetting about my time skills.

Which races are you targeting in 2017?

Like I mentioned earlier, world championships. I also want to do well in the Nationals, Polish and one-day international spring events.  My preparation for 2017 season will be slightly different than from a year ago. In December I will be in Spain, so I will be able to spend more time on the bike.