On Sunday, yet another breakaway fought for victory on the Giro. Between Grado and Gorizia, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team did have one rider in front: Lars van den Berg. After a very rough start of the stage for the whole bunch, the young Dutchman managed his day in the front quite well butwas nevertheless unable to follow the best to go for the stage win. He joined the line within a chasing group and took 14th place. On Monday, a big mountain stage is on the menu.
“Hats off to Lars”, Sébastien Joly
On the eve of a big fight towards Cortina D’Ampezzo, one of the shortest stages of the 2021 Giro was to be covered on Sunday, through Italy… and Slovenia. Only 147 kilometers were on the day’s program, but many riders hit the ground straight from the start due to high speed and high tension. “It was a very big accident,” said Sébastien Joly. “The start was on a bay, with a 3/4 tailwind and it went super fast. There were going at 60 km/h, a rider must have touched a wheel and next thing you know, there was a strike. Several of our riders got involved in the crash, Matteo was complaining a bit about his wrist but it still looked okay. For the moment, it seemsthere was more mechanical damage than physical damage as far as we are concerned”. Other teams were more affected, and four riders actually left the Giro, including Emanuel Buchmann, sixth on GC. In order to rescue every rider injuredand put everything in order, the race was neutralized for thirty minutes. A second start was then given and attacks were launched right away. “We absolutely wanted to be in front. We figured that Sagan could try to make his team pull, but if there was a strong start, we wondered who was going to help them”, explained Sébastien. “In addition, they lost Buchmann, and that obviously changed their plan a little”.
After a few minutes of fighting, a group of fifteen men went away and Lars van den Berg managed to follow the right move. “It was difficult to get going again, but I was very focused on taking the breakaway,” said the young man. “I sprinted directly from the start and got into the right group. We rode really fast for half an hour, we got a big gap and I knew the group would fight for victory“. “Hats off to Lars, who got the grit to position again and go up the road after what happened,” said Sébastien. “It shows how motivated he is. Four weeks ago he didn’t even know he was going to do the Giro. He’s a bit of a last-minute guest, and he’s a nice surprise. After fifteen days of racing, he is still well into it, with the right state of mind, and that is the good lesson of the day”. Up front, against 14 riders older than him, the former Conti rider tried to ride as smart as possible, “but it was difficult because some teams had two or three guys,” he added. “We suspected that Campenaerts would attack on the flat, that’s what he did, but he attacked really strong,” said Sébastien Joly.
“In a breakaway of 15, you don’t want to be 14th”,Lars van den Berg
About twenty kilometers from the finish, the former EuropeanTime Trial champion got away with Oscar Riesebeek and Albert Torres. The first two managed to stay away and the Belgian took the win. “On the last climb, four riders tried to jump across the first group, and I missed a bit of strength,”added Lars. “The gap was 20 to 30 meters at the top but I couldn’t bridge it. I was close, but not close enough. It’s a bit of a shame because then I ended up with some sprinters or guys who had a guy up front, so I had to pull alone for the last few kilometers. In the last small climb before the finish, I tried to ride away but I couldn’t go too far and they came back on me. Then I lost in the sprint. I didn’t do so badly, but it’s not a perfect day in the end. When you’re in a breakaway of fifteen, you don’t want to finish fourteenth”. “He fought to join the leaders but it was not enough,” Sébastien said. “His result on the line doesn’t mean much, the main thing was that he was in that breakaway. He rode well and that is the most important. He was a little disappointed at the finish but we told him he shouldn’t be. He will gain experience, strength, and in a few years, he will be able to fight with the best in this kind of breakaway“. “I need to get stronger and I hope I will come back in the future to get a result,” the young man concluded.
As for Attila Valter, he safely finished in the peloton, seventeen minutes later, and now sits eleventh in the overall standings following Buchmann’s abandon. Tomorrow, the Hungarian will have to remain strong to maintain his position towards Cortina D’Ampezzo through Passo Giau and PassoPordoi in particular. “It’s one of the most beautiful stages of this Giro”, said Sébastien. “It’s also the first very big mountain stage. We really enter a high mountain pattern with three 1st-category climbs, one Hors–Category climb and more than 200 kilometers of racing. They also forecast extreme weather. We will fight with our means. Rudy, Seb and Matteoare doing well in the mountains, Attila is still there in the general classification, and we will make sure to protect him in the best possible way”.