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SANTUARIO DI CASTELMONTE, Italy (VN) — Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) has criticized the decision to put a corner in the final 50 meters of stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia after he almost crashed in the finale.
Valter was part of a five-rider group that was contesting the victory in Santuario di Castelmonte. As the sprint to the line wound up, the five leaders had to navigate a tight left turn shortly before the finish line.
Both Valter and Andrea Vendrame (AG2R-Citroën) went straight on and nearly collided with the barriers. Valter said later that placing such a sharp turn so close to the line made the finale dangerous.
“I knew that there was a corner in the finish, but I didn’t know it was such a big left corner and we all almost crashed, the five of us in the sprint,” Valter said at the finish line. “I don’t know why we needed a left turn in the final 50 meters, it doesn’t change too much but it made the finish much more dangerous. Thankfully, we didn’t crash.”
“I don’t know what difference it would have made because the person who takes the corner first would normally win the race, so the person who gets there first wins the race,” he said. “It just makes it a bit more nervous and dangerous.”
Valter said that some dud information regarding the bend, plus the race vehicles going straight on, only added to the confusion at the bend. Vendrame and Valter were headed toward a side road, which was being used to host the race podium and parked cars of those who had come to the top.
“I also didn’t get right information, I didn’t know it was a left corner. I was on the wheel of Andrea and we both went straight, I think we both thought it was a right corner,” he said. “From that side, with 150 with an easy left bend you see nothing, and then it’s going uphill so you really know nothing and then the motos are going in a different direction. If I did it again, I would know but for the first time it’s a little bit much.
“I timed it a bit late and then this was really a big surprise this left corner. Nobody was really happy with this left corner.”
The breakaway started the day with 12 riders, and it soon became clear that it would be allowed to stay away as its lead extended to over 10 minutes. The steep slopes of the Slovenian climb of the Kolovrat split the break and gave Valter a chance to go clear with Koen Bouwman and Mauro Schmid.
However, Valter said afterward that the trio was much too wary of each other, which allowed dropped riders to get back. Valter believes that he might have been able to improve on his fourth place had he taken the race by the reins, but he may have had to sacrifice a chance at victory.
“For sure, I could have done more. I should have sprinted first, or I should have made the climb harder. I still had good legs but with Koen and Mauro we were quite on the same level, so it was a ‘who is going to pull’ game and I just waited too much,” he said. “It was not really clever to let Andrea back to us, because we had already dropped him but, of course, when he is seeing the finish line, he is getting another extra power.
“For sure, I could have made the podium if I pulled the climb myself and we went to the finish with three, but my goal was the victory today and I still had to wait for the victory.”
Valter came into the Giro with some GC intentions after finishing 14th overall in last year’s race following a stint in the pink jersey. However, his race never really got going and he was out of the running very early on, falling to 34th in the GC standings at over two hours behind the pink jersey Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers).
Though he has been able to play a role in his team’s success at the race with Arnaud Démare sprinting to three stage victories and holding a strong lead in the points competition, Valter has not been able to shine like he did in 2021.
While he didn’t manage to take the stage win in the end, the Hungarian could take some small pleasure out of just being in contention.
“It’s a good way to close the Giro. I finally did a good breakaway and I had a reasonable result. In a break like this only the win counts but I didn’t have the best Giro myself,” Valter said. “I could do work for Arnaud [Démare] and I am happy to do that, but I wished for a little bit more. Today, I was close to the victory and I have never been so close to the victory in a grand tour like this. Of course, I’m a little bit disappointed but it’s a relief to at least do something at the end of the Giro.
“It’s a good fourth place for me after the race. I felt really good today, but I didn’t attack before because I trust my sprint, even though I know Andrea, Koen, and Mauro all had really good sprints. On paper, they are better, but I felt like I had really good legs and I waited too much.”