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MX News Update 2024

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Michael Valgren: I’m back, but I’m just grateful that I can still be a cyclist

“Easy question,” says Michael Valgren when asked if he can not only return to his old level, but be even better than before. “I think I already am. The numbers show that. Yes, I’m back.”

The EF Education-EasyPost rider spoke to GCN ahead of stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia, insisting he was capable of winning a stage in this, his first, Giro d’Italia. A day and a half later he crossed the line in Lucca after coming agonizingly close but retaining his first point.

The context of all this is that Valgren’s career almost ended in 2022 when he crashed over a barrier and took a big fall on a descent during the Route d’Occitanie in June. He broke his pelvis, broke his hip and the initial recovery was so slow that he started to think he might never race again.

In April 2023, after extensive physiotherapy and even psychological rehabilitation using virtual reality, he was back in the peloton, but no longer a WorldTour rider, and dropped to the EF Education-EasyPost development team to continue on a steady road to recovery. He rejoined the WorldTour ranks at the start of this season and has had 32 days of solid racing before coming to the Giro, which he hopes will make him even stronger.

“After a big lap you always get such a big engine,” the Dane explained. “Last year I was already at a very good level, then I hoped that I would put on a new layer, and I did that. I think I’ll take it a step further after this, so it’s very important.

“But I already feel good and I am here to fight for a stage win. Anything else would be…I don’t want to say stupid, but there would be no reason to be here.”

Read more: Giro d’Italia stage 5: Benjamin Thomas takes a dramatic victory from the leading group

Valgren kept his word and came within cycling distance of a first victory since 2021, arriving in Lucca as part of a four-man breakaway that thwarted the big sprint teams. He put up a strong fight against Benjamin Thomas of Cofidis, but the Frenchman had the lead and Valgren had to settle for second place. Not that he was overly disappointed.

“It’s the Giro, right… it means a lot,” he said, his voice beginning to crack with emotion. “A few years ago I wasn’t sure if I would have a contract….”

Valgren slipped into the leading group, which was in fact the second of the day, with 77 km to go after Alpecin-Deceuninck had neutralized the first on the Passo del Bracco and then took their foot off the gas on the way to the intermediate sprint.

“Benjamin came to me and said: ‘Hey Michael, we have six or seven guys who want to attack after the sprint, are you ready?’ I said ‘no, because I fell yesterday and my knee hurts’, but then thought ‘why don’t I try?’.”

That move ultimately only involved four riders, or “three and a half”, if you accept Valgren’s sardonic view of Polti-Kometa’s Andrea Pietrobon, who skips corners and attacks late. But they survived by just under 11 seconds to sprint it out between them.

“You always think that the peloton needs about ten seconds per kilometer, but we kept working together well and to our advantage it was a bit downhill and you can only reach a certain speed with the same gear. Chapeau to the other boys for the good cooperation.

“The Polti man had short turns and wasn’t super strong, but then came with a late attack, which messed up the cooperation. I had to do a very long sprint, hoping that I could do a Magnus Cort Nielsen sprint, but I still have a bit more to learn. Ultimately, Benjamin is a very good rider. It’s a shame, but I’m happy to be back in the mix.”

Valgren noted that he had “10% extra in the legs,” as these were the paths he once called him as an adopted native of Tuscany during the early years of his career. Perhaps this result will give the 32-year-old’s confidence another 10%.

On this evidence that victory will come – not that this is all.

“I’m just grateful that I can still be a cyclist,” Valgren concluded.

For everything you need to know about the Giro d’Italia 2024, from the history of the breed to this year trajectory And starting list, be sure to check out our dedicated racing hub.