GERGELY KOHÁN 2022.05.04 22:04

Attila Valter: Everyone should enjoy it; that's what I'm going to do

The Hungarian star of Groupama-FDJ is excited about the „Grande Partenza” in Hungary, and he would start big at the Visegrád leg. This year, he would rather win the stage than the overall race.


(Photo: Károly Árvai)

– The rehearsal was excellent, you were fantastic on the Tour of the Alps where you finished fifth. Can we be optimistic?
– Of course, this gives me great confidence. To be honest, I even surprised myself. This was the rehearsal last year as well – it did not go well then, although I was not worried because often the result achieved does not reflect the current, real state of strength. This was confirmed because I did not do well on the tour last time, but I did all the more so in the Giro. But I am confident that this fifth place is a positive sign, everything is going very well so far: I cycled much easier in the field, the mountains looked much easier and my numbers were also very good throughout.

And you also showed off your hidden sprinter skills again. But is it necessary or can you do this for three weeks?

– It is for some people, but I'm not sure if this is a goal for me this year. There is no such expectation in the team either, also because of the lineup: I will be practically the only mountain cycler in the team this year, as our current Giro team is clearly built on our French star sprinter, Arnaud Démare. In fact, it will be me and his lead-up line. Obviously, they'll give me all the help I can get, but I'm going to have to try to keep myself in a position as best as possible. And starting such a tough three weeks like this is not easy to do "alone." That is why I will not stress about the overall standing: there will be stages where I will let go of four or five or even ten minutes, if that is the case and if I feel that I can save enough strength so that I can give the field four, five or ten minutes in a single escape. I say a top-20 finish is doable again, but it will not be my main goal this year – I will try to go for the stage win. As you said, I've managed to improve in the sprint, I've managed to improve on mountains, so I feel like a stage success can be a realistic goal, even if it's hard as hell.

If I say, “Giro in Hungary,” what feelings do you have?

– Especially excitement. Even to this day, I find it hard to believe that this is really happening. It will be very interesting to have a Giro with such a Tour de Hongrie vibe for the first three days. I can't wait for everything, the Italian colleagues, to be here and to get it all going. I will probably divide this race into two parts in my head: the first part will be the first three days, Hungary's biggest bicycle race ever, and then we will travel to Sicily, from where Giro will actually start.

Is it motivation or a difficulty that you are getting more attention than usual, and those who haven't watched cycling before will follow you expecting results?

– A little bit of both. On the one hand, it is a great motivation and a great honor to have so many people rooting for me and paying attention to me, and on the other hand, it is also a burden because a lot of people expect the best results from me. Well, I can tell them that that's basically my goal also, so we're all pushing for the same thing. The Hungarian stages are beautiful and very well put together, but they do not suit me, except perhaps the first one. There will be a small hill near Visegrád: a sprint finish is expected at the end, I will fight for the best possible position, and on the other two Hungarian days, I will just try to enjoy all this. And I send the same message to everyone: try to enjoy the Giro because it is a great feat in itself that it will even come here!

Looking at the entire route, where are the key elements? The second week of the race seems to be cruel.

– I think it's definitely the third week that's going to decide the fate of the pink jersey. This final week will be incredibly tough, and at the end of the day even with a time trial, which can also decide the podium. We have to get to the third week somehow with relatively good overall results because there will be huge differences there. Therefore, it is not a tragedy if after the first week I have a few-minute disadvantage because nothing will happen. In the second or third week, I will need a lot of strength to come forward in the overall standings or to achieve outstanding results in the stages.

Giro and Tour winner and world champion Stephen Roche, a pillar member of the Hungarian organizing team, said long before the Tour of the Alps that your form suggests that a top 10 finish could be hiding in you.

– The starts would have to be aligned for that. After the Tour of the Alps, I'll say I could be in it, but that's really not my preference this time; I wouldn't even put a top 10 overall ahead of a stage win. I finished 14th last year; you can see that I've improved this year, but at the same time the team and the sports world know about me that I can make the top ten, but it's not certain that it will be this year. The bigger goal at the moment is to be able to do well in the stages – also because of the aforementioned team lineup – but obviously I try to finish as far ahead as possible in the overall standings. But if that means, say, an overall 35th place and a stage podium or win, I'd rather want this!

Translated by Vanda Orosz 

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