The third stage of the 2022 Giro d’Italia, the last one contested in Hungary, came as the first major goal for the Groupama-FDJ cycling team. Arnaud Démare could therefore count on the support of all his teammates for the anticipatedbunch sprint in Balatonfüred. After a very long day, the Frenchman followed his lead-out train and then managed to make its way into the front. Eventually, he got only beaten by Mark Cavendish on the line and just came close to victory.
For the pure sprinters, the Giro really started this Sunday, with the last day of racing in Hungary before joining Sicily on Monday. The third stage, without serious climbs and featuring201 kilometres, was supposed to end in a royal sprint. The peloton could also enjoy an easy run-in as the day’s breakaway formed after fifty metres of racing with three Italian riders: Mattia Bais, Filippo Tagliani (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli) and Samuele Rivi (Eolo-Kometa). Their lead increased up to six minutes but was then contained quite early on. After seventy kilometres, Arnaud Démare also took part in the intermediate sprint, where he took fifth place. A few minutes later, his teammate Clément Davy appeared atthe front of the peloton to contribute to the chase behind the leading trio. The young Frenchman held that position for more than a hundred kilometres. He was still leading up the way to the Groupama-FDJ train when Bais and Rivi, the last breakaway survivors, were caught with thirty kilometres to go. “Clément did a very good job chasing the breakaway, and he also held on well in the final, up to the only categorizedclimb”, said Sébastien Joly. In the last ten kilometres, Attila Valter took over after another great day for him. “I smiled a lot today and I really enjoyed this stage”, said the former pink jersey. “I think it was a very beautiful day to close this Hungarian part which gave me the best memories of my life”. “Attila also had to refocus on the race, it was important for the team”, pointed out Sébastien. “We have eight riders at the start, and we need them all. He was there in the mix, and he enabled his teammates and the train to spare themselves a bit in the final”.
“A decent start”, Arnaud Démare
For a handful of kilometres, the national hero allowed Arnaud Démare and his lead-out men to remain at the forefront of the peloton. Tobias Ludvigsson then took over until the last four kilometres, where the tension increased even more. “It was very fast, and we expected it because everyone was very fresh,” said Arnaud. “Our positioning was good, but it was hard to stay together. I lost the guys with just a kilometre to go but managed to get back into Jacopo’s wheel at 600m. I saw the train with Cavendish pass, and I fought to get into this wheel. I was really happy to be there.” The former French champion therefore found himself in a very good position before the final sprint, which the Briton started with some 250 metres to go. “He went hard from far, and held on for long”, explained Arnaud. “It was impressive. There wasn’t much to do. I immediately started my sprint next to him, but looking back, I think I should have stayed a bit in his wheel and waited until the last moment to try to overtake”. If the Groupama-FDJ sprinter was therefore unable to matchCavendish, winner on the line, he did not get caught by anyone either. A solid second place therefore opened the Giro for Arnaud Démare and his teammates. “I’m still disappointedas I’m here to win”, he said at the finish, “but there are plenty of other opportunities coming up. It still is a decent start for the team. Physically, I’m fine, I don’t miss much. The guys did a good job, we still have to adjust the timing and stay together. We took second, it could have been worse, it could have been better too, but at least it really launches our Giro”.“Some things were good, others a little less, but they can also be explained”, concluded Sébastien Joly. “The lesson of the day is that we are right up there. We can win, but we will have to improve a few things. We can’t say we’re satisfied tonight because we’re here to win.”
“The best experience of my life”, Attila Valter
For Attila Valter, an amazing experience came to an end this Sunday, and the young Hungarian had a lot to say about it. “These three days were incredible. It is for sure one of the most memorable weeks of my life”, he claimed. “It’s really matching the three days in the pink jersey I had last year. It was maybe an even better feeling. Today, they were cheering for me so much, even more than they cheered for me last year in the pink jersey. It was just incredible. I don’t know what I’ve done to make the people like me that much, but I’m really happy for that. I will really think back to this time with a lot of pride. This country really showed that we are ready for cycling. There were really a lot of people, a lot more than what you usually see on the Giro. All the other riders in the bunch were really happy. We showed them that this beautiful country is a really great place to ride a bike. I just can’t say more, it is really the best experience of my life. I will use this memory all along my career, I really hope I’ll feel this again in my life. If not, it’s still okay, because it is not something that happens to everyone. I’ll fly with a big, big smile to Sicily.”