The two Groupama-FDJ’s climbers had carte blanche on Thursday for the second summit finish of the UAE Tour. Attila Valter and Matteo Badilatti therefore tried to stay as long as possible in the favourites’ group and came short only in the last kilometre. The Hungarian eventually took 20th as the Swiss crossed the line in 23rd place after having attacked earlier on.
“It was a good test”, Jussi Veikkanen
On Thursday, Stage 5 of the UAE Tour offered another opportunity for the climbers to shine with the long but gradual climb of Jebel Jais (21 km at 5.5%), which came after 150 rather straight kilometers. “There wasn’t a lot of fight at the start,” said Jussi Veikkanen. “Two men first broke away but then sat up. After that, there was no race at all and then it got a little more nervous at the intermediate sprint. Only after that, a group of eight went, with some great names in there.” The breakaway especially included Mathias Frank, Thomas De Gendt and Alexey Lutsenko, but no rider from Groupama-FDJ. “We wanted to be in the breakaway if there was a big group, but we had no one, which was a bit of a shame,” added Jussi. Not too many regrets though, as the breakaway did not make it today – although it was a close call -. The bunch actually tackled the bottom of Jebel Jais two minutes after the breakaway, in which Alexey Lutsenko soon proved to be the strongest. “For us, the idea was to do the best we could with Anthony, as he was still there in the overall standings,” Jussi said. “We wanted to follow through with our ideas with him. We also gave the freedom to our two climbers, Matteo and Attila, to do their own thing”.
Alexys Brunel and Anthony Roux remained in the favourites’ group for some time but the Swiss and the Hungarian indeed held on almost to the top. “It was a good day,” said Matteo. We rode really well as a team and the guys helped us to be in a good position for the final climb. The climb was very smooth. It was pretty easy on the wheels, so there wasn’t a big selection.” The first attacks then occurred at the very end, and the Swiss climber got involved: “Three kilometers from the top, I saw Nibali and Vanhoucke attacking, so I decided to give it a try as well. We were caught with 1500 meters to go. With Attila, we lost contact a bit in the final kick, but it was still a good day”. Jonas Vingegaard took the stage win as Matteo Badilatti eventually took 23rd, just behind his Hungarian mate (20th). “I think we will see their real qualities in the European climbs,” added Jussi. “This is also where we expect them to be. It was a good test anyway, because there is a really nice field here. That being said, the goals rather are in Europe and later in the season. Most importantly, they got to test themselves, and they did well. Moreover, Matteo proved offensive in the final”.
“It’s promising for the future”, Matteo Badilatti
In the overall standings, on the other hand, Anthony Roux is now out of the top 20 despite having “done his best once again” today. The former French champion will potentially have the opportunity to show himself over the next two days even if the terrain does not properly suit the team. “It is very likely that the last two stages will end in a sprint,” said Jussi. “The objective for this group in this race is to work well for the future. We will therefore try to be offensive, but we will also have to do it according to the race circumstances “. On the verge of concluding his first competition with the team, Matteo Badilatti already pointed out many positive things. “I struggled a little bit on the first day,” he recalled. “I was not feeling good, but with time I now feel better. I feel that the legs are coming. I have had a great week here with the team. It was a super integration, they are really nice and we really work well together. It’s a real honour to be part of this family. This week also helps us to improve our French (smiles). We’re having a good time together, we’re racing well and that’s promising for the rest of the season. I’m already looking forward to the next race”.