The Groupama-FDJ cycling team was on fire this Sunday towards Barcelona, in the seventh and final stage of the Tour of Catalonia. Michael Storer, Sébastien Reichenbach and Quentin Pacher first joined the day’s breakaway, and Pacher even stayed away until the last 13 kilometres on the Montjuic circuit. Attila Valter then took over and managed to hold the wheel of the favourites before sprinting for victory. Only Andrea Bagioli managed to cross the line before him, and the Hungarian had to settle for a great second place. Sébastien Reichenbach finished in the same group and got 14th in the overall classification.
The Volta a Catalunya was set to come to an end this Sunday on the well-known circuit of Montjuic, on the heights of Barcelona. Before completing six laps of this punchy track, it was however necessary to cover ninety kilometres, which proved quite lively. “The plan was to be in the breakaway, because we know that once it gets on the circuit, the break can go far and sometimes fight for the win”, said Quentin Pacher. “There was a lot of battle at the start of the race, also because the fight for the general was involved in all that”. The right group eventually went away after more than forty kilometres. Twelve riders made the cut, and that included Michael Storer, Sébastien Reichenbach and Quentin Pacher for Groupama-FDJ. “We had a plan, but it is always difficult to apply it during the race”, said Philippe. “Having three men in the group was very, very good, and it enabled us to have concrete ambitions for the day. The problem was that there was also Dylan Teuns up front, and as he was only two minutes back in the GC, they did not really let the break go”. “We were there in the various moves, and we managed to be there with three riders”, added Quentin. “It was great to be represented so well. We had different cards for the final. Unfortunately, we were never able to have a good lead and we got to the final circuit with just one minute”.
“I can’t be sad”, Attila Valter
After a real fight on the online part, the final battle started about sixty kilometres from the finish around Barcelona. From the first climb, the breakaway exploded. “Given that we had numbers, the goal was to go on the attack quickly enough, get rid of Teuns and fight for the stage win”, explained Quentin. “Seb made a first attack, Kruijswijk counterattacked, and I followed”. The two men took a gap straight away and then tried to stay away from the bunch, which still got closer over the laps. “We believed in the victory, of course, because we never know how it will unfold”, said Philippe. “We knew there was going to be a fight, that they were going to get closer at each lap in the hills, but very often, they then look at each other, recover, which allows the breakaway to gain a few seconds. This is what happened for four laps out of six. To go for the win, we would have needed an extra minute when entering the circuit, because when the fresh guys attack, they take back some time quickly”. Two laps from the end, Quentin Pacher and Steven Kruijswijk only had a twenty-second lead and a new acceleration within the bunch eventually ended their break. “We gave everything, but it was a lap and a half too long for the win”, said Quentin. “Anyway, we had a strategy and we stuck to it”. “It’s another very good performance from Quentin,” said Philippe. “It’s disappointing when it doesn’t succeed, but we must recognize he did a great ride. We couldn’t miss him in the final!”
The Frenchman surrendered thirteen kilometres from the finish, and Attila Valter then took over for the team, trying to follow the favourites. The Hungarian was up there in a very reduced peloton with one lap to go, along with Sébastien Reichenbach. When everything finally exploded on the last climb of Montjuic, the two men were not able to follow the main guys, but they managed to come across under the flamme rouge thanks to the downhill. “I tried to do my own race and save my energy”, said Attila later. “I made a small attack one lap from the finish, but when I saw that the peloton was chasing, I let it go. In the final, Seb was still with me, and I asked him on the downhill to bring me to the front because I felt that my legs were still fresh enough to do a good sprint. He did a really good lead-out, I was in Bagioli’s wheel but I just didn’t have the last kick at the end to pass him”. A year after his third place on the same circuit, Attila Valter therefore settled for second, for half a wheel. “I think it’s still a good second place,” added Attila. “The week was really difficult for me, so it was hard to imagine being able to get a podium. It’s a bit bittersweet not to win but I’ve never been this close to a WorldTour victory, so it’s still a good result. I can’t be sad. It would have been nice to win but it’s a good way to close the week. It’s a boost for my confidence.”
“The guys had a great week”, Philippe Mauduit
The Groupama-FDJ cycling team therefore completed the race on this high note. “It’s a great satisfaction for Attila, because he had doubts during the week, but got more and more confident over the days and eventually finished with a good second place”, said Philippe. “It’s good for his confidence ahead of the Giro. Overall, the team was very strong in the most difficult stages. This is important because it shows the quality of their shape. We know we can fight for the win, there is no doubt. The positive side is that the group was very homogeneous, so much so that they were able to be many in the breakaways. The guys had a great week. Obviously, it would have been better to win at least one stage, but that’s sports. You don’t win every time you perform.” “We had a very busy day, it’s great, and it sums up our Volta a Catalunya”, concluded Quentin, third on the opening day. “We had a very homogeneous team. Personally, I am satisfied with my race, although I was hoping to get closer to victory today, on the stage that suited me the most. Still, I noticed that I was in the mix this race and in this first part of the season. That bodes well for the rest of the year.”