Widely tipped as a future star in the making, 24-year-old Michael Valgren (Tinkoff) netted his first major WorldTour result in Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, with his second place having all the feel of a breakthrough for the young Danish rider.
Two years ago in the 2014 World Championships road-race, a gutsy late move by Valgren saw the Dane, then a first year pro, come within a whisker of getting in on the definitive attack by Michal Kwiatkowski.
That was not to be after Kwiatkowski’s third acceleration on the hills outside Ponferrada left Valgren reeling - although he still made twentieth at the finish. But at Amstel Gold two years later, after bridging across to Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty - Groupe Gobert), Valgren managed to make it ahead of the main pack to the line, even if he finally had to settle for second.
Whilst Gasparotto’s triumph was a well-calculated victory for one of the craftier members of cycling’s older generation, Valgren, ten years the Italian’s junior and already a national road race champion, could well be seen as a rider with a great future ahead of him.
“I’m disappointed I didn’t win, but if I think about it, for me this is a big result,” Valgren said afterwards. “Really I can only be happy with my performance. Doing well in this race has been one of my big goals for the whole year. It suits me a lot. Hopefully I’ll come back and win this thing some time.”
When Valgren reached Gasparotto, he said he thought he might be able to win. However, with the Italian cannily exploiting Valgren’s determination to stay ahead, second was arguably the best Valgren could hope to achieve. “I knew it would be very hard but he didn’t want to work, so I had to settle for second. At the end I tried to move out to the left so he wouldn’t be protected from the wind and hopefully that would have killed him. But he was the strongest and that was it.”
Twice a winner of the U-23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Valgren said his role would be one of working for the team next Sunday, rather than building on the Amstel Gold result for himself. “It’s a completely different race to the U-23 Liège, it’s 80 kilometres longer.”
“iIt will be about payback time for the team helping me, I’ll be concentrating on doing the work that’s needed. So don’t expect to see me in the front next Sunday.” However, further down the line, it may well be a very different story.