Max Poole continued his eye-catching debut season as a professional with another excellent climbing display at the Tour of Romandie.
The DSM rider finished alongside Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) and Cian Uijtdebroeks (Bora-Hansgrohe) in a very select group of favourites that trailed stage winner Adam Yates by 21 seconds and runner-up Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) by 14 seconds.
This was the best performance yet in what has been a breakthrough year for Poole. Less than two months after turning 20-years-old in March, he impressed at the Tour of the Alps to finish eleventh overall, and win the young riders classification.
Now, in his first appearance in a World Tour race, Poole is going even better, and will enter Sunday’s final stage in fourth overall.
The Thyon 2000 mountain at the climax of the stage is one of the biggest to have featured in the World Tour so far season, but Poole was clearly undaunted by the prospect.
“It was a really hard climb,” he said at the end of the stage. “We’re really good as a team, me Oscar [Onley] and Romain [Bardet]. We were up there for most of it and we saw some guys were starting to struggle but not quite at the limit. Oscar did a really good pace at the front, and whittled the group down.
Bardet is DSM’s leader at the race, and launched a few attacks on the climb, but Poole ended up being the team’s best performer after the Frenchman was dropped near the summit.
“The plan was for Romain to try an attack on the steep bit, but they didn’t really give him much room. So it was a bit of cat and mouse for a little bit, and a bit stop start. I think in the end [Adam] Yates was really strong, so fair play.
“Yeah, a bit of a surprise, a nice surprise!” was Poole’s response when asked if he expected to ride this well at the Tour de Romandie. “I had OK legs last week [at the Tour of the Alps] so I was just hoping I could recover and have a similar feeling this week. It’s really nice to be up there.
He still has 11 seconds to make up on Caruso in third-place to seal a slot on the podium, which will be unlikely given the lack of climbs in the finale of Sunday’s climactic stage five.
“Obviously just missing out on the top three is a bit of a shame. But to be racing for the win is definitely a good feeling.”
He’ll also find it difficult to repeat his victory in the young riders classification from the Tour of the Alps, as Jorgenson leads him in the classification by 19 seconds.
Poole is the latest in the fertile assembly line of young talent that DSM continually produce, for whom 2021 signing Romain Bardet is proving to be a wise mentor for.
“He [Bardet] really likes racing with us, and we really like racing with him, and he’s a really good mentor for us. Being with him every day, we pick up new things, it’s really helpful having him around. He’s a really good guy.”