This was the last one; the last mountain stage before getting toMilan for the closing time trial of the 2021 Giro. On Saturday, the riders then had to face quite a tough course for the very last “climbing show”. After three difficult climbs and a visit to Switzerland, Damiano Caruso eventually got the day’s victory while Egan Bernal retained his pink jersey. A little behind, Attila Valter fought hard to keep his top-15 overall, which he almost secured before the last solo effort on Sunday.
“I had to take my own pace”, Attila Valter
With 4000 meters of elevation gain on the menu, stage 20 of the Giro did not appear to be the most mountainous one of this 2021 edition. However, after three weeks of racing and with the never-ending Passo San Bernardino (24km at 6%) as the first climb to face, the stage was expected to be brutal. Many riders actually wanted to anticipate the climbs, which again resulted in a very lively start on the shores of Lake Maggiore. The Groupama-FDJ cycling team did not get into the fight too hard as they quickly realized that it did not seem worthwhile. “There was a strong probability that Bike-Exchange and Deceuninck-Quick Step would control the race as they did yesterday, either for the stage victory or to turn the overall around,” said Philippe Mauduit. “The guys knew for a fact that if we saw these two teams trying to control, it wasn’t worth spending the energy to enter a breakaway that would not make it to the end.“ After thirty kilometres, nine men took the lead, but as expected, Simon Yates’ teammates immediately set the pace.
Approaching the first slopes of the Passo San Bernardino, the breakaway had only a four-minute advantage, and their margin was further reduced when the DSM team accelerated in the second part of the climb. After more than an hour of climbing, the last part being in a snowy setting, five men managed to reach the summit before the bunch, but with less than a minute. In the downhill, the big moves started among the GC contenders and the race never stopped from then on. After a valley at full speed, the riders tackled the Splügenpass (9km at 7.3%), where the pace was further increased. At the bottom,Attila Valter could still count on Rudy Molard, Matteo Badilatti, Simon Guglielmi and Romain Seigle. However, the tempo proved too fast in the climb and the Hungarian lost contact three kilometers from the summit. “The goal was to pass the Splügenpass with the favourites,” said the young man. “But with Bardet and Caruso in front, the race exploded and it was really really hard. I felt quite good on the first long climb, but the second was really tough. I had to take my own pace and we managed that well with Matteo. Simon Guglielmi also helped a lot”.
“The guys fought for Attila”, Philippe Mauduit
“The guys fought well again today,” said Philippe. “They tried to get Attila as best they could until the finish to limit the losses and they managed their effort well. Simon was there until the bottom of the last climb. He gave his all on the downhill and on the false flat leading to the final climb. It was a good team effort today. We certainly don’t have the means to fight for the win, but the boys were able to come together forAttila and fight for him.“ The young man eventually crossed the line almost seven minutes after the winner Damiano Caruso, in twenty-fifth position, a few metres ahead of hisSwiss teammate. “I can’t say I’m super happy, but although we got dropped in the Splügenpass, we managed not to lose too much today,” Attila continued. “I fought for my GC, it was a super long Giro for me, also mentally. I really hope I can keep this fine top 15 tomorrow ”.
On the eve of the closing time trial, 30-kilometres long towards Milan, the Hungarian sits indeed in fifteenth place overall. The rider ahead of him has a 42-second lead, and the one behind him is 2’33’’ away. “For Attila, the goal will be to do a diligent time trial and the best possible time, simply as that“, added Philippe. “Fourteenth place is doable, but it will be down to freshness and motivation. For the others, it will be important not to take unnecessary risks”. “I want to do a good time trial tomorrow,” claimed Attila. “I know I’m fighting fora top 15 and not for a podium or a top 5, but that’s my goal in the future. Then, if I want to do good GCs in the future, I also need to do the final time trials really well. That’s why I’ll start tomorrow’s one as if I’m fighting for the podium, and just give my best”.