Unfortunately, David Gaudu did not have the legs in the queen stage of Paris-Nice. Three days after his crash towards Chiroubles, Groupama-FDJ’s climber was unable to perform as he was aiming to in the climb of La Colmiane on Saturday. He eventually took 25th at the finish and now finds himself 22nd overall before the last, very short stage and in a closed circuit around Levens.
The action was set to begin right from start in this intense, only 120-kilometer long stage 7 of Paris-Nice. The riders had to tackle the Gilette climb after few hundred meters and a group of thirteen took advantage of it to make a gap on the bunch: Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo), Andrey Amador, Laurens De Plus (Ineos Grenadiers), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Premier Tech), Kenny Elissonde, Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Sam Bennett, Mattia Cattaneo (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), David De la Cruz (UAE Team Emirates), Dylan Teuns and Gino Mäder (Bahrain-Victorious). As some of them were quite close on the general standings, the yellow jersey’s teammates never let the break take too much of a gap. They indeed got a 2’40-margin at best, at the top of the third and penultimate climb of the day in Saint-Antonin.
“I couldn’t give up”, David Gaudu
The peloton then headed to the bottom of La Colmiane, while gradually reducing the gap on the leading riders. Ahead of the final climb (16.2 km at 6.2%), David Gaudu could still get the support of Bruno Armirail and… Arnaud Démare. “Paradoxically, Arnaud may have had his best day on this Paris-Nice on a stage that did not really suit him,” said Thierry Bricaud. “He was still with David at the bottom of La Colmiane and he fought well. It shows that he keeps improving and that he is in good condition. It’s good for the future”. Within the favourites group, riders started to be dropped early on due to the high tempo. David Gaudu tried to keep his rivals’ wheels as long as possible, but had to let the group go with five kilometers to the top. “I was already flat-out from the start, I was on the limit in the first climbs,” the Frenchman explained later. “For the past two days, I haven’t felt great. It was hard all day but I held on. In my head I was like ‘the team has been working for me all week, you need to fight on’. I was just hoping the legs would be back for that last climb. I just couldn’t give up. I tried to hang the best I could with what I had today.”
At the top, the fresh winner of the Faun-Ardèche Classic had to settle for 25th, far from his true level. “We are disappointed because he had ambitions in this Paris-Nice, and for this stage in particular”, confessed Thierry. “He did not have the legs and there is surely an explanation. His crash cannot be forgotten. Today wasn’t the day to have bad legs, but that’s part of the game. We know very well he’s not where he belongs tonight.” Now 22nd in the overall standings, David Gaudu will not meet the goals he set for himself when he started the Race to the Sun. “I’m disappointed for myself and for the team,” he added. “This is not what we came for. It’s part of bike racing, but it hurts. Tonight, I am very disappointed but already from tomorrow, I will look forward to the next races”. “What’s most frustrating is that he had done everything right until then, including doing a decent time trial,” concluded Thierry. “Even if the race is not over, we know that it will now be difficult to get a good position in the general classification”. Sunday’s stage 8, redesigned due to health restrictions in Nice, does not seem suitable indeed to turn the race upside down. The riders will only have to cover 93 slightly hilly kilometers from Le Plan-du-Var to Levens.