Mattias Skjelmose put in a bold performance in the second of the Ardennes Classics with a phenomenal Pogacar, the only rider able to beat him to the finish line.
Skjelmose’s path in 2023 seems to be one built out of consistent and solid progression. His previous performances say this, and his results confirm this. The Danish rider’s achievement today at Flèche Wallonne fits perfectly into this frame, and although it is not a victory – which as Skjelmose says is “always the ultimate goal” – it is the best result of his Spring… so far.
Skjelmose finished second behind Pogacar (UAE Emirates) and ahead of Landa (Bahrain) and both of these two names give a good idea of how strong Mattias’ performance was and perhaps give it even more importance.
This morning I said that I would have been grateful to finish second behind Pogacar and that happened. In the races where he participates, if he has no bad luck, it’s really hard to think of something more than second. I finished second behind the one who, maybe, can become the best rider ever. That, of course, doesn’t mean that we don’t have to try to beat him and that’s what I did today. I knew I had good legs and good condition so I was focused on the podium and that’s what I told my teammates in the race meeting.
#FlecheWallonne 2nd and 5th for our guys @skjelmose_ and @giuliocicco1 in one of the hardest finishes in professional cycling 🙌 pic.twitter.com/O3GF3bAvuE
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) April 19, 2023
The race, controlled by UAE Emirates from start to finish practically, was decided on the last climb of the Mur de Huy and not only did Skjelmose show that he was 100% ready but so too did Giulio Ciccone, who finished 5th within 3″ of the leaders. Two riders in the top five is a sweet reward for a great team performance and gives plenty of reasons to hope for a repeat at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.
I knew from last year that being in the first positions at the bottom of the climb was necessary and I was there, thanks to the great work from Bauke. If I would have tried to follow the best too early I would have run the risk of exploding. I stuck with my own pace and waited for the right moment to accelerate. I pushed until the line and it was a good strategy. We hoped for some attacks early in the stages of the race, but UAE did an amazing job keeping everything under control for Tadej. So, I went all in on the Mur.
I’m happy with how I managed my effort in such a tough finale. I know my values, I know what I can do with my power. I managed my capabilities well avoiding the need to go deep and suffer too early and that was a good way to ride to manage my energy till the end.
I’m really happy with my performance and the result, but I think the whole team in general can be happy too. Cicco was there as well in the first positions, he took 5th, and then the rest of the guys did a great job, especially Bauke leading me into the finale. He has a lot of super experience at these races, he’s so intelligent and he knows how to move. Having his help is simply a huge advantage and I would be stupid not follow him. In the end, I think we played our cards well, we can be proud of it and have no regrets.
In the races where I performed well this year I was in the right condition to exploit my explosivity on short climbs and I’ve maybe learned that I’m more explosive than I thought. My plan, and the team’s as well, for the future is to work more in the direction of becoming a Grand Tour leader and there’s still work to do to be close to the best. I’m 22 years old and I know I can improve my capacity in this direction, especially on long climbs, without losing this explosivity.