On stage 14 of the Giro this Saturday, the riders faced one of the most mythical climbs of cycling: the mighty Monte Zoncolan. After more than 200 kilometers of racing, Italy’s Lorenzo Fortunato took the win at the top and in the fog. In the meantime, with the great help from his Swiss mates Sébastien Reichenbach and Matteo Badilatti, Attila Valter limited his losses to hold on to twelfth in the general classification.

“We thought that the fight would last longer”, Philippe Mauduit

Starting the penultimate weekend of racing on the Giro, everyone had one fact in mind: since the start in Torino, 50% of the road stages ended with a breakaway victory. The escapees are in full swing in this 104th edition. As a result, almost everyone wanted to be up there again today, although the tough finish on Monte Zoncolan could not make the victory guaranteed for the attackers. The fight was therefore intense on Saturday morning from Cittadella, but it was shorter than expected. Eleven men broke away from the peloton after eight kilometres, especially thanks to a large roundabout, and despite a real chase and numerous counter-attacks, these eleven men never got caught. “Of course we have regrets,” said Philippe Mauduit. “Probably like many teams, we thought the fight would last longer, but it’s actually the first real move that went away. That’s how it is. The days go by but are not always similar. There is no need to make excuses, but for sure in these cases it is also a bit of gambling. We also told ourselves we would take the risk of waiting a little bit before getting into the fight, but the first attempt was the good one. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, and today it slipped from us… “

With no man in the front group posing a real threat to the pink jersey, the leading riders were able to get a solid margin despite the strong pace set by Astana. A strong pace that actually divided the peloton in the downhill of the stage’s first big climb, about fifty kilometers from Monte Zoncolan. “On a wet road, we know that it can split easily”, added Philippe. “There is no room for everyone and there were only six or seven ahead of the rest after the downhill. Nevertheless, given what was looming (30 kilometers of flat, editor’s note) we knew that some teams were going to pull and chase. As long as you are with leaders who have teammates, there is nothing to worry about.” Attila Valter and his teammates thus got back with the maglia rosa after a few minutes-chase following Remco Evenepoel. “Because of the splits, the small 2-kilometre climb in the downhill was very hard,” said Attila. “I suffered a lot there and probably wasted too much energy, but we still managed to come back and I had time to focus on my recovery before the last climb.”

“Helped extremely well by Matteo and Seb”, Attila Valter

Faced from the Sutrio side this year, the Monte Zoncolan was today made of 14.1 kilometers of climbing at 8.5%, including the last three kilometers at 13%. With a six-minute advantage at the bottom, the breakaway was able to go for the victory and Lorenzo Fortunato won atop of this iconic climb. Within the peloton, Attila Valter held on with the favourites before being distanced halfway through the climb. Fortunately, he was not alone. “I started the climb in a pretty good position, always around the guys, but the pace was really high for me today and I had to let the group go with six kilometers to go,” he explained. “Then, I was helped extremely well by Matteo and Seb. They did their best and I tried to maintain a good tempo with them. In the end, of course I’m not happy because we lost a bit too much but that was my best today and I’m still 12th overall, which is ok I think.” “Seb and Matteo did a great job in the final,” Philippe added. “They limited the losses for Attila who, had he been on his own, probably would have lost a lot more. It shows that the guys feel concerned with Attila’s ranking and that they respect and fight for the jersey.”

Thirtieth on the stage, just ahead of Sébastien Reichenbach and Attila Valter, Matteo Badilatti briefly summed up his day: “It’s always nice to climb such a mythical climb. It was one I wanted to have in my bucket list and it was a great experience. Having said that, the last slopes were really steep and I wasn’t expecting that. We tried to help Attila as much as possible, and I think we succeeded. I’m feeling better and better, the atmosphere in the team is very good and we will try to get the most out of this race before Milan.” Tomorrow probably won’t be the best opportunity though, with a short, not very hilly stage towards Gorizia. “It may not be a full peloton at the finish, but there are still high odds for a sprint,” concluded Philippe.