The Trek-Segafredo Dane finishes 2nd in Stage 2 and eyes the overall win with one day to go in Tour de l’Ain
Mattias Skjelmose is finding his niche in pro cycling and confidently doing it. There is only one way to find one’s limits, which is to test where it lies, and for the young Dane, this means no holding back.
Stage 2 was defined by two ascents of the Col des Portes, and it was the second time up the climb where the race for the win took shape.
Managing his effort in the heat was critical for Mattias, and with help from his team, he made a fierce attack at the top of the climb and led solo down the descent. Mattias pushed hard on the downhill and increased his lead.
The chase was on from a small group. They pulled back the audacious Dane on the short Col de Fay with 12km remaining.
“I was feeling quite good all day,” said Mattias. “The team did a great job to keep me out of trouble and kept me cool with ice and water when I needed it. I felt quite comfortable, and I’m getting to know myself better on these long climbs in hot weather.
“When Bennett attacked, it was just before the last feed zone, so I stayed relaxed and did my own tempo to make sure I could get some ice and water. Otherwise, I would have probably exploded with the heat. I came back to the group, and just before the top, I told myself I would attack with 500m to go.
“There was a moment of hesitation from the others, so I went for it. I don’t know if I was flying on the descent, but I was feeling quite comfortable on this bike with the Pirelli tires, for me, one of the best tires I have ever used, especially for high-speed descents.
“I made a few mistakes, but overall, I was comfortable, and I don’t feel like I took many risks. In the end, it was a shame that they came back to me, but I knew it would be hard to hold that gap when there were teams with two riders.”
I made a few mistakes, but overall, I was comfortable, and I don’t feel like I took many risks.
The six chasers pulled back the audacious Dane on the short Col de Fay with 12kms remaining, and Skjelmose, not done yet, tagged onto the back of the group when they came by. Inside 2kms to go, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) attacked, and it proved to be the winning move.
“When Martin attacked, for me it was FDJ’s job to close the gap as they had two guys,” explained Mattias.
Martin powered through the final kilometer and took the win, leaving the six chasing riders in a fight for second. And Skjelmose, never one to hold back, jumped first.
“I tried to make a long sprint because I was confident I could beat the other guys, and this way I could limit my losses to Martin,” he said.
It worked. Mattias closed the gap to two seconds and crossed the line in second place.
“I’m now six seconds away [from the lead], but it’s another hard stage tomorrow, the team is riding well and I’m feeling good so we will try to put some pressure on with our eyes on the victory.”
Mattias, who is leading the best young rider competition, also has the lead in the points classification. He will wear the green jersey into Stage 3 with eyes on another – the yellow leader’s jersey. The sky’s the limit for this young Dane, who is quickly finding his place in pro cycling.