Attila Valter conquers the white jersey in Sestola

For the first time in his young career, Attila Valter put on a distinctive jersey on a Grand Tour this Tuesday afternoon. In Sestola, after a mountainous and – very – rainy day on the Giro, the Hungarian took the white jersey for the best young rider on the official podium. Sixth on the fourth stage after a long breakaway, and now fifth in the general classification, the 22-year-old also showed perfectly how the Groupama-FDJ cycling team aim to tackle this 2021 Giro.

The first real climbs of the 104th Tour of Italy were to be covered this Tuesday over the 187 kilometers between Piacenza and Sestola. However, the climbs were not the only issue of the day. The riders indeed set off shortly after noon in the pouring rain, which actually never left them. Under these conditions, the day’s breakaway only went clear until after thirty kilometers or so. Twenty-five riders found themselves at the front of the race, including Attila Valter for Groupama-FDJ. “He was one of the riders we named this morning to enter the breakaway,” said Philippe Mauduit. “He did not fail, and that is already something interesting. When we give him instructions, he is able to follow them and get himself into the fight”. Up front, the 22-year-old reunited with his childhood friend Marton Dina, but also with more experienced riders such as Alessandro De Marchi, Rein Taaramae, Joe Dombrowski, Victor Campenaerts, Jan Tratnik and Nelson Oliveira. “There weren’t a lot of teams with numbers up front, so it wasn’t that hard to understand the race,” continued Philippe. “The difficult things today really were the terrain and the weather”.

“The biggest achievement of my career so far”, Attila Valter

The weather conditions were so complicated on Tuesday that it was even difficult to follow the breakaway progression due to TV connection problems. The peloton initially let the leaders take more than six minutes, then briefly accelerated at halfway point, but eventually calmed down with fifty kilometers to go. The leading men benefited from an eight-minute lead, which secured them the stage victory. Three riders tried to anticipate: Rein Taaramae, Quinten Hermans (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) and Christopher Juul Jensen (Team BikeExchange). They took a gap of about two minutes on what was left of the breakaway after the first climbs. “They still attacked a long way out of the finish line. On such a difficult course and with such tough weather, you waste a lot of energy in such an attempt”, Philippe analysed. “We weren’t too worried about that, especially given the last climb that we had to face today.” Although he got distanced at some point, Attila Valter still managed to hang on in the first chasing group including a dozen of riders. This group progressively took back some time on the leading riders and got to the bottom of the final climb of Colle Passerino. (4.3 km at 9.5%) just one minute later.

“It then came down to the legs”, summarized Philippe. “You had to be the strongest in the break in order to win. In the end, Attila just found guys stronger than him”. The Hungarian did not manage to follow Joe Dombrowski and Alessandro De Marchi, who respectively took the stage victory and the pink jersey, but he still made a good climb and took over a few opponents to place 6th on the line. “To be honest, I suffered a lot today, but when I see the last climb, I always find better legs,” he said later. “I think it’s my best result yet in such a big event”. However, the young man didn’t just score a top-10 on Tuesday. Thanks to the time he put on the main favourites, he also moved up to sixth place overall and thus seized the white jersey, much to his surprise. “Honestly, it was such a hard day that I need a few minutes to realize what happened,” he said shortly after the finish. “Right now, I just can’t wait to get back to the bus to warm up. To be honest, we’re only at the start of this Giro and I don’t feel in my best shape yet, so I’m really happy to be in such a good position after just four stages. I don’t know what the future of the race will hold for me, but I can say it’s the biggest achievement of my career so far. I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m super happy. These days help a lot to gain confidence. We will see how long I can defend this jersey but I will just give my best. Now, I have the motivation to go again in the breakaway and fight for the win.”

“The guys got the message”, Philippe Mauduit

“It was a great day for the team and for Attila,” added Philippe. “He was rewarded with this best young rider jersey, and it’s always good for a 22-year-old man to stand on a Grand Tour podium. It opens up the possibilities, even if we have to keep our feet on the ground. Both Lars’ breakaway yesterday and Attila’s one today show that the guys got the message and understood why we are here. They will start to realize that there is a real chance that they will win stages by being aggressive and going on the attack. That’s pretty good in that regard. With Attila, we are not going to get too enthusiastic. He must enjoy the opportunity he’s got to wear the jersey for as long as he can. We will see day after day, without pressure. Tomorrow, we will try to approach the stage as a transition day, hoping that the weather is not too bad so that the guys can recover from the two hard days they have just experienced. Then, we will get back into the fight”.