On Friday, with two days left before the end of the Giro d’Italia, Attila Valter got a real opportunity to open his record in the Grand Tours. After joining the breakaway with and thanks to Clément Davy, the former pink jersey wearer was able to fight for the victory in the last climbs. Approaching the finish line, however, he was still with four riders up front, and a last tricky corner prevented him from playing his card until the very end. He crossed the line in fourth position with a bitter feeling.
The mountains were back on the Giro roads this Friday on stage 19. The climb of Kolovrat located on the Slovenian border was surely the main interest of the day, but it all started with nearly seventy kilometres of flat. On this extremely fast section, the fight for the break was once again rough in the first minutes, but Clément Davy and Attila Valter managed to sneak in the good move after about ten kilometres of racing. In a group of twelve riders, they opened a nice gap straight away before battling with the peloton for another ten kilometres or so. “First of all, I have to thank Clément”, said Attila. “Without him, I couldn’t have joined a breakaway like this one. I was almost in the last position of the pack when he told me to take his wheel, and he almost immediately put me into the breakaway. It was incredible. He really put me in a perfect position today”. At the front, the two Groupama-FDJ riders found themselves with Edoardo Affini, Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma), Andrea Vendrame (AG2R-Citroën), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF), Magnus Cort (EF Education-Easy Post), Davide Ballerini, Mauro Schmid (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl), Tobias Bayer (Alpecin-Fenix), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo). “It was ideal,” said Benoît Vaugrenard. “We had Clément to help Attila, and all the riders were very far back in the general standings. We knew that they would get a big margin”.
“I was confident in my sprint”, Attila Valter
The breakaway indeed got a ten-minute advantage before the peloton decided to increase the pace a little. “It was a comfort to have Clément at the front,” said Benoît. “He went over the first climbs, then we asked him to pull in order to gain a few seconds before the penultimate climb, so as to demoralize Bora-hansgrohe who were chasing. That’s what he did and the group gained thirty seconds. Hats off to Clément, who was very solid today”. The young French rider then got dropped at the bottom of the climb of Kolovrat (10 km at 9%), and the leading group was soon reduced to just four riders, including Attila Valter. “I felt really good, among the strongest, but it was still very far to go solo,” said the Hungarian. He therefore reached the summit together with Bouwman, Tonelli and Schmid, while Vendrame came back on the downhill leading to the last ascent. After some ten kilometres in the valley, the breakaway riders tackled the climb of the Sanctuary of Castelmonte (7,3 km at 6%), but started to look at each other from the very first slopes. This was also made possible by the fact that the gap to the peloton was still very large. It’s only in the final three kilometres that a few small attacks occurred, and surprisingly, the group of five was eventually still complete for the sprint. “In the final, I think we were more or less at the same level,” said Attila. “It was difficult to make a decision, that’s why we looked at each other a lot. Maybe we played a bit too much. I tried to attack once or twice, but I saw that Bouwman was very strong. I knew that everyone was very fast, but I also trusted my sprint because I had good legs”.
Yet, the young Hungarian wasn’t able to show his real potential, as he went straight, following some of his competitors, in the last corner with 75 meters to go. When he got back on track, Koen Bouwman was already celebrating his victory. “It was a tricky finish, with that last left turn a few meters from the finish line,” explained Attila. “Luckily there were no barriers, or we would have crashed heavily with Andrea Vendrame”. The Groupama-FDJ climber crossed the line frustrated, in fourth place. “It’s coming, but I would have really liked to win today”, he said. “It was a good day for me, I’m happy to get something, but I’m also very frustrated because the victory was very close, and you don’t get many opportunities like that in your life”. “I think we were simply beaten by the strongest”, said Benoît. “Of course, we are disappointed, because you don’t play victory that often on a Grand Tour. Having said that, we have won three stages already, we pulled all day yesterday, we still had two guys out of twelve in the front today. This is very positive. Winning today would have been the icing on the cake, but we came up against a stronger rider”. The rest of the team finished well within the time limit on Friday and will try to do the same on Saturday in the last big mountainous stage before reaching Verona.