From Call of Duty to the leadership of the Giro d’Italia: Presentation of Attila Valter
This time last year, Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) did not know where her career was going. The pandemic had left him short of racing days and, with CCC Team ready to fold, the young Hungarian admits to having experienced a few moments of nervousness.
However, a victory in his home circuit, coupled with a solid race in his first Giro d’Italia, convinced Groupama-FDJ to give the former mountain biker a chance to develop further on a big stage.
Fast forward to May and the 22-year-old became the first Hungarian to wear a leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour and, after a very impressive performance in the first week of this Giro, looks like a real star in the making. .
Before pulling on the maglia rosa – and before Cycling Technical breakdown that kept the site from posting content for 24 hours – we caught up with Valter to talk about how he wears the white top young rider jersey, his background in the sport and what makes him tick.
Cycling: Congratulations on your performance so far in the Giro d’Italia. You are in a jersey and in a very good position at this point.
Attila Valter: It is quite strange. I wasn’t expecting a jersey here but I’ll take it and the ones I get on the podium I’ll never give them to anyone. It’s a super cool feeling and I already had more respect in the peloton. Of course, I try to show the same respect to other riders as before, but being in the white jersey has been a hectic day for me. I liked it but every day is a different story.
CN: You raced the Giro d’Italia last year, making your Grand Tour debut, and you were in the top 30 – although over an hour late. Are you looking at GC this year and where you can make big improvements?
A V: I think if I’m fully focused it’s definitely better to finish higher than last year, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. As we saw earlier in the race with other stages, it might be better to aim for a stage victory than to finish in 20th place. I don’t know if it’s worth it but I feel great and felt in good shape throughout the first week of the race. It was the same last year but I will not give time. In the future of my career, GC is of course a big priority.
CN: I remember when you won this stage in Tignes at the Tour de l’Avenir in 2019, but what was your background before winning this stage?
A V: I had done road races before and was already part of the CCC development team. So I had experience before l’Avenir, but before that, my main goal was mountain biking. I’ve run the world cups and the world championships, races like that. Slowly I hit the road and was invited by the national team to do more races and I was very successful. I enjoyed it and when I got the chance to join the CCC team, I realized it was time for a complete change. It was in 2019. I did a few mountain bike races that year, but my training and planning was focused on the road.
CN: How did you get into cycling?
A V: To be honest, it wasn’t that hard for me. My father was a professional cyclist and he raced in Italy. He was champion of Hungary several times, so when he stopped his career he immediately became a coach at home. He had trained many riders before me, but I started when I was 10 and trained with the other kids. He’s still at home, still dragging people along so I hope I’m not the last in the house to enjoy that feeling.
CN: You are the first Hungarian to wear a jersey of any grade in a Grand Tour. Did you have a huge reaction from home?
A V: It is both a happy and a sad moment, but it is true that I am only the first Hungarian in this position. It would be nice if there was more than one cycling tradition in Hungary but it is not. We had a good rider worth mentioning, Laszlo Bodrogi. He finished on the podium at the world championships, but he was not chasing jerseys at Grand Tours because his duties were in other areas. I got a lot of attention in Hungary with thousands of messages and interviews. I am really happy that, despite the absence of such a historic cycling culture in Hungary, our people still know how difficult the sport is and how professional we are all. I’m very proud.
CN: So when you were a junior and U23, was it hard to get recognition and attention when you were racing in Hungary?
A V: Going home just wasn’t possible. We only had a few races and there really wasn’t much you could do with that. It’s a different story now because we have the Tour of Hungary and you can have a good result there and make a name for yourself. When I came I had to go to the World Cups and other junior races abroad in places like Switzerland and Luxembourg. I learned a lot about myself as a young rider at that time, but also joined a junior continental team and competed in the Tour of Slovakia which was a good race for me. I had a podium in one stage, a climb finish, and that allowed me to cross the door to the CCC.
CN: So why did you choose Groupama FDJ as a team?
A V: When COVID-19 started last year, the CCC team said it would shut down. I was quite afraid of what was to follow in my career. I didn’t know if I would have races to show my potential again, so there were some tough moments. I just focused on my training and hoped for the best, then they called me after the victory in Hungary. They showed real confidence in me and I really liked the project they had put in place for many years. I think joining was a good solution and they are so professional when it comes to things like the trial and putting all the little details together. I can buy into the team’s philosophy very easily because they just want the best for each rider. It didn’t take long for them to convince me to join. Now I can say it was a good decision.
CN: Who were your heroes in cycling when you were growing up?
A V: It’s difficult. When I was younger and still at the age where you still admired runners as if they were heroes, I was still mountain biking, so Peter Sagan was my idol. I was really happy to see a rider like him mountain biking and when I got to the age of 13 he was on the road. He immediately became one of the best in the world and knowing that he was born so close to me in Budapest, less than two hours from my house, and in a place that has a lot of Hungarian ties to him, it was a strange feeling. In general, I mostly admired mountain bikers.
CN: Apart from cycling, what are your hobbies?
A V: These days there isn’t much. I like to play video games, but not too much. There are parts of the year that I do, and then I go out and don’t play at all. I don’t have time right now to log in just to get my ass kicked in Call of Duty: Warzone but during my 40s I sure did play a lot. When I can, I always play solo because it’s easier and it means I don’t have to put in the hours. Sometimes I play God of War or Spiderman a bit just to pass the time. Last year, however, I played Warzone a lot with my cousin. But most of all, I like being at home even though most of my time is spent in sports. I don’t mind, however. I’m super happy because it’s a dream and not just a job.