Skjelmose kick starts season with 3rd place in Ardèche Classic

Danish Champion shows strong early-season form in four-way battle between climbers

How it happened

After a successful block of altitude training on Mount Teide, Tenerife, Mattias Skjelmose returned to sea level to make his 2024 racing debut. Starting the day as Lidl-Trek’s leader, the plan from Sport Director Kim Andersen was built around setting up Skjelmose to attack on the longest climb of the day, the Mur de Cornas (forming part of the longer climb to Saint Romain des Lerps). First, a breakaway of three riders had their fun before Fabio Felline traded turns with a few other teams to eventually reel it in. Julien Bernard contributed to the pace setting and positioning along with Quinn Simmons before the peloton hit the Mur de Cornas, at which point Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier twisted the throttle. The Eritrean’s role was to stretch out the peloton to set up an attack by Skjelmose, but he was so strong that by the time he swung off the peloton was in tatters. The Dane upped the pace and only Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) could follow him, though after settling into a rhythm they were joined by Felix Gall (Decathlon AG2R), and later Romain Gregoire (Groupama-FDJ).

The quartet rotated and traded attacks for the remainder of the race but were closely matched. They reached the finish still together, leaving the four climbers to sprint it out. Skjelmose, confident in his speed, approached the sprint from the back, but was unable to pass Ayuso and Gregoire, leaving him to round out the podium in 3rd place.

In Skjelly’s words

“I’m happy, we did really great as a Team. We had a plan and we executed it perfectly. Unfortunately I just didn’t have the legs in the end. I was really strong on the long climb, maybe the strongest one there, that’s what we hoped for. In the end I was lacking the anaerobic effort and that makes sense because I came from altitude. I’m really happy with how we worked as a Team and that we come away with at least a podium. Tactically there wasn’t anything different I could have done, I just didn’t have more in the legs. I thought I would be the fastest guy, but unfortunately I wasn’t and that’s on me.

“The plan was to enter the long climb in a good position and Amanuel [Ghebreigzabhier] set the pace, he did perfectly. Then I attacked and only Ayuso could follow, but unfortunately Romain and Felix came back and we followed all the way to the finish line. A day like today is perfect preparation for the rest of the season with lots of powerful efforts. It’s not the worst day to lack some on the anaerobic side.

“The cooperation was quite good. Felix [Gall] tried to skip some turns but I understand that because on paper he was the slowest guy in the sprint, and he played it smart with some good attacks. Also Romain played it good, I thought he was done and in the end he had a good sprint. Otherwise I think me and Juan [Ayuso] took the most turns but that’s what to expect when we were maybe the strongest on the long climb.

“I’m not better than I expected, but I’m in line with my expectations. We did a lot of long efforts in training, and you can see the result of that in the long climb. The anaerobic efforts I always need to get a little bit in the races, so everything is going as planned.”


Photos of the day

Supplied by Getty Sport

Felline the breakaway killer

Amanuel turns on the gas