In just his third race since returning to competition after a long injury lay-off, the German produced a great display in Classic de l'Ardèche.
A week from a solid seventh place in the Volta ao Algarve general classification, Maximilian Schachmann showed again that he's primed for a big season, in which he is keen on leaving last year's disappointment behind, showing instead the talent and quality that recommended him as one of the best U23 riders of the 2016 season, which landed him a spot in the Quick-Step Floors roster.
Part of the strong seven-man team who came at the start of Classic de l'Ardèche (200.2 kilometers), one of the most spectacular underrated one-day races of the calendar, 24-year-old Schachmann was one of the main protagonists once the race was brought to life inside the final 25 kilometers, when Romain Bardet (AG2R) attacked minutes after the day's break was nullified.
Max accelerated from the bunch and rode in pursuit of the Frenchman, being joined on his quest by teammate Jhonatan Narvaez and five other riders. As they crossed over the top of Coteaux de Cornas and Côte du Val d'Enfer, Bardet's lead proved unassailable, so the chasers were left fighting for the other places on the podium. Schachmann, who was racing in France for the first time since stepping up to pro category, attacked in the run-in to the finish in Guilherand-Granges, opened a small gap and arrived at the line with a handful of seconds over the group from which Narvaez took sixth.
"Everybody suffered, because it was very cold, you couldn't feel your hands or reach for the energy gels in the back pocket. A small breakaway went from the start and AG2R did the chasing behind them. The real race began only before the penultimate climb, when Bardet attacked. I was feeling better and Bob, who was our captain, decided to ride for me, so I attacked full gas and rode away with a small group, which contained also Jhonatan, who was very strong", said Schachmann after his best result since turning pro 14 months ago.
The young German – who on Sunday will race Drôme Classic (206 kilometers) – explained what the runner-up spot in south-east France means to him: "With three kilometers to go, I got a small gap, looked over my shoulder and saw nobody was reacting, so I kept pushing on. Bardet was too far, but my effort was enough for this nice second place. I am really happy with the result, a confirmation of the good feeling I had coming into the race. More importantly, this runner-up spot means a lot for my confidence after last year's injury in the Tour de Pologne. It was a long period out of competition, but I always stayed calm, confident and overcame that moment with the help of the team and the doctors."
Photo credit: ©Etienne Garnier