World champions enjoy a certain privilege, no? Their status guarantees them the unwavering support of their team-mates and an armchair ride to the finish.
If Michal Kwiatkowski expects preferential treatment, he hides it well. The rainbow jersey has ridden tirelessly in support of his Etixx-QuickStep team-mates since the peloton rolled out of Utrecht, and put in another impressive shift on today's fifth stage from Arras to Amiens.
Inside the final 10km, he was barking orders, and as he sailed beneath the 5km to go kite, he was on the front, setting a ferocious tempo that two of his team-mates might benefit, defending Tony Martin’s maillot jaune and preserving Mark Cavendish’s sprint ambitions.
Kwiatkowski appears to share a special bond with Martin. The German was the young star's chaperone at last year's Tour when their team had little to ride for, after Cavendish's premature exit.
They joined forces again in March at Paris-Nice (a race Martin won in 2011), notably on stage six, where the pair attacked early in the hope of resisting the superior climbing power of Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte. It nearly worked. Both Sky riders crashed on the descent into Nice.
Today, Kwiatkowski continued his efforts of the previous stages of this 102nd Tour. Even on stage three and the finish on the Mur de Huy, where his talents might have been given a freer reign, he set tempo for Rigoberto Uran, the team’s GC hope.
There is no shortage of leaders to serve at Etixx-QuickStep, even for a world champion. Kwiatkowski bears the burden seemingly without complaint. We’ll add to it slightly, with a freshly picked banana. Keep it in your jersey, Michal. You’re likely to need it in the days ahead.