Friday from Budapest, Hungary, in Attila Valter’s hometown. A wearer of the pink jersey last season, the young man from the Groupama-FDJ cycling team was able to fully enjoy this Grande Partenza on home soil. He was also the first rider of the team on the line (29th), as Arnaud Démare unfortunately suffered a mechanical problem in the uphill finish, where Mathieu van der Poel took it all.

“I didn’t know if it was real”, Attila Valter

It was party time on Friday in Budapest for the start of the Giro, and many eyes were on local star Attila Valter. In front of his family, friends, and public, the 23-year-old Hungarian enjoyed a considerable dose of encouragement before setting off for the first 195 kilometres of the “Corsa Rosa” towards Visegrád. With the breakaway establishing itself after just one hundred meters, and with only two riders from Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli inside it, the whole peloton was able to head to quite a calm day. Which also enabled Attila to measure his fellow countrymen’s enthusiasm. “It was incredible today”, he said. “Many riders came to me and asked me “what’s going on here? They expected to see the start of a Grand Tour, but it was maybe more than that. It was maybe a revolution for cycling in Hungary. It was crazy. I told my friend Erik Fetter that if I had received one euro for each person that said my name, I could buy the castle next to the start area (smiles). It was amazing, I can’t say more. I felt like I was dreaming. At a certain point, I didn’t even know if it was real”. The race, however, briefly took over after seventy-five kilometres when Arnaud Démare took fourth place in the intermediate sprint, then getting five points for the cyclamen jersey.

“I would have liked to see how far I could have gone”, Arnaud Démare

Mattias Bais and Filippo Tagliani, meanwhile, enjoyed a ten-minute lead at best before some teams decided to take on the chase. Slowly but surely, the gap narrowed, and the tension clearly rose within the peloton with about thirty kilometres to go. In the wake of Clément Davy, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team moved up at the front and tried to stay there. The leading duo was caught thirteen kilometres from the finish, and the fight for positions before the final climb to Visegrád (5.5 km at 4.2%) kept on going. “For this punchy finish, we had two cards: Attila and Arnaud”, said Sébastien Joly. “We had done a recon of the finish, it was steady, and we could feel Arnaud was very motivated. The guys protected our leaders really well in the valley, before the bottom, and then placed them well for the climb”. Although two attacks made the race harder in this last hill, the elimination happened from the back, and Arnaud Démare was unfortunately forced to let the peloton go with about one kilometre left to do. “I hit some riders, which made me lose several positions, and I broke a pedal cleat, which prevented me from pedaling with my two legs”, he explained. “I would have really liked to test myself longer, and see how far I could have gone”. “They got boxed in a bit twice,” added Sébastien. “Nothing big happened the first time, but the second around time around, Arnaud had to unclip and broke his cleat. On this kind of finish, you need to stay away from any slowdown, and he did not get lucky. Anyway, we saw commitment and energy, and that’s what we wanted”.

As for Attila Valter, he placed 29th on the line, four seconds behind the winner and first pink jersey Mathieu van der Poel. “Of course, I would have liked to do a better result, but I was next to the crash halfway up the climb,” added the Hungarian. “I wasted a lot of energy to come back. I still passed quite a few riders in the end, and I did my best. I felt strong today, that’s a good sign, and it was also important not to crash. I obviously have a bit of mixed feelings about the result, but I enjoyed this day”. He won’t lack support tomorrow either, on the nine-kilometre individual time trial in Budapest.

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