With the support of his teammates, the young Dane finishes 2nd in the Queen stage in Provence and claims 3rd overall
Mattias Skjelmose showed patience and maturity beyond his years in the final stage at the Tour de la Provence. Ignoring the attacks, he used his teammates to do the bulk of the work up the tough finish climb and then pounced in the last meters to grab a stellar second place in Stage 3.
The placing moved the young Dane onto the third step of the final podium and landed him the best young rider of the race, a deserving award for the 21-year-old with a promising future.
The expected attacks came on the final climb, first by Nairo Quintana and Julian Alaphilippe, then by Ivan Sosa. But young Mattias waited. Using Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier and Kenny Elissonde to set the pace, he calmly sat behind his two teammates.
Their concerted effort paid off. They caught a faltering Alaphilippe and set up Mattias to have enough in his tank for a fierce acceleration in the final meters, coming over Sosa. Only Quintana – showing a form of old – held off to take the win and overall classification.
“In the very last kilometers the fatigue was a lot, we were pushing hard, but when I saw that Sosa was reachable I pulled out all the energy to sprint and repay the work of my team,” explained Mattias. “Having Amanuel and Kenny at my side was a great support. I gave everything and I’m happy that it helped to get such a good result.”
There was no easy day in the four-day race. The prologue was followed by a windy, flat Stage 1 that blew apart the peloton, and a Stage 2 tricky, punchy finish.
The first three days tested Mattias’ ability to show he is more than a young kid who can climb: he finished 15th in the prologue, not losing time to the GC rivals, made the first echelon in the crosswinds of Stage 1, ultimately finishing 7th, and positioned perfectly in the punchy finish, staying ahead of damaging time splits.
“After the prologue, which was a good way to start the race, the next two stages were nervous, but as a team, we kept things well under control,” said Skjelmose. “Today was obviously different. We not only had to be on point but also manage energy and strength to be competitive until the finish.”
Coming into the fourth and final day, Mattias sat in 5th place with a summit finish to decide the overall podium, and after three challenging days, he and the Team were ready for one more.
“I’m very happy with my performance here in France. The stage result and the final GC result make me super happy, but first of all, I want to share all this with my teammates,” said Skjelmose.
“Today we did amazing team play. Cataldo, Kamp and Egholm protected me until the beginning of the climb, then Kenny and Amanuel did a super job to help me. My result is 100% a team effort, there was a spirit of sacrifice from everyone to help me and I couldn’t have achieved it without them.”
Amanuel, who did a lion’s share of the work on the final climb, still managed to finish in 6th place, followed by Kenny in 9th – solid team results after a concerted team performance all race.
Mattias concluded: “Being captain of the team was a great feeling. Again, thanks to my teammates because they gave me a lot of confidence and, consequently, strength. To be honest, I didn’t expect to be so competitive already at the first race of the year. It’s a good sign, it can only make me happy, especially since there’s a whole season to race and I can still improve.
“Performances like these give a lot of awareness. For the goals I’ve shared with the team for 2022 and my personal expectations in the season, it’s an important boost of confidence and trust.”