The 108th Tour de France in history came to an end on Sunday, on the Champs Elysées in Paris. While Wout Van Aert won the final stage, and Tadej Pogacar was crowned for the second time in a row, Groupama-FDJ ended the race without being able to meet the goals they set for themselves in Brest. Also quite unlucky over the three weeks of racing, Marc Madiot’s men still bravely fought until the very end.
“The Tour is the most important race of the season, we are aware of that. So not being able to get what we wanted is obviously disappointing. We are far from the ambitions we had at the start”. As the Grande Boucle ended on Sunday, Thierry Bricaud had some realistic words about the team’s record on the race, on a purely statistical side. “We especially came to get stage victories,” continued Thierry. “We knew we were physically ready, the guys worked hard beforehand and we got here with confidence”. Unfortunately, the first part of the Tour, until the first rest day, did not really go as expected for Groupama-FDJ. “A lot of things can explain our record, but the crashes of the first days obviously had terrible consequences,” he explained. “You need to remember that we lost Kono on day one. Arnaud also struggled a few days after his crash, and that obviously had an impact in the stage to Tignes as well. Jacopo crashed as well… We’re one of these teams who suffered from these crashes, but that’s also how the Tour is… You need to get through the crashes”.
“We bounced back, together,” Valentin Madouas
Down to five riders after nine days of racing, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team also lost Miles Scotson on stage 11, the Ventoux’ one. That’s also where David Gaudu lost all hope of a very good overall standing. A completely different second part of the Tour then began. “I want to remember the team’s spirit, the four guys left’s spirit”, said Thierry. “If you look closely, we were protagonists or inside the breakaways on almost every stage after the Ventoux. Until the end, they fought for this stage win and committed every single day. Even down to four guys, we were among the most active teams because there was a real motivation. We will keep this in mind. They did not give up, they remained focused on what they had to do, they remained motivated, and there always was a good atmosphere. Everyone was ready to lend a hand to his mate in order to get a result. When you see that we had three out of four riders in the break towards Andorra, and that we tried to do something on the Tourmalet in the last mountain stage, it says enough about the guys’ spirit”.
Despite many attempts, it did not pay off for David Gaudu. Neither for Stefan Küng, second and fourth on the two Tour’s time trials. “It’s a rather mixed record”, confessed Valentin Madouas. “The goal was to take a stage victory and we did not manage to do so. So we cannot be really satisfied. Nevertheless, after our disappointments, we bounced back, together. Personally, my second part of the Tour was alright, I felt quite good again. I was pretty satisfied; I also made more breakaways than last year. It’s a positive thing. I would obviously have liked to achieve a better performance on a stage (12th in Quillan, editor’s note), but it’s the Tour de France… Anyway, the atmosphere was great at the end of the Tour, and we worked really well together to get the best possible result. It didn’t work out, but we’ll be back”. Three times in the top-10 in the last week of racing, David Gaudu also grabbed eleventh place in the general classification. “It doesn’t mean much,” he argued on Sunday. “This is not what we came for. Still, there were some great things about this Tour de France. I’ll try to remember that I had a good first week, and a good last week. We tried to stay in the game, even down to four, in the second half, and we did our best to get a stage victory. Unfortunately we didn’t succeed, but it’s also how sport is”.
“Happy to get to the Champs Elysées”, Bruno Armirail
For his first experience as a leader on the Tour, David Gaudu just finished outside the top 10 as the Ventoux’ stage all alone proved fatal. “It’s a shame, of course, because he could have been in the battle for three weeks,” added Thierry. “He had the legs for it. If we forget this stage, he was with the best every day, or not far away. However, the Ventoux stage also freed him up a bit and gave him some space to go for a stage win, which he probably wouldn’t have had if he stayed with the GC contenders. It’s a pity and frustrating for him, as he’s been on a great momentum since last year’s Vuelta. That being said, it is part of his learning process and it will be useful for the future”. Bruno Armirail has also gained quite some experience in his very first Tour de France. “I learned a lot,” he said. “I have had great experiences, especially in the Pyrenees. In terms of performance, I would have liked to be more useful and better meet the expectations of the team. But I did it with the means I had… Considering the condition I was in on the first rest day, I don’t think many people would have expected to see me on the Champs Elysees. I didn’t want to give up, but it was also hard for me to picture myself there. Therefore, I’m happy to get to the Champs Elysées and complete this first Tour de France”.
While Stefan Küng and David Gaudu will be flying to Tokyo for the Olympic Games in the next few hours, with clear ambitions, Thierry Bricaud concluded: “We know that, even if we do good things at the end of the season, some will only remember the month July, which was not great. But we don’t think about that. We fought every day and tried to go for the best possible results. It is all only part of the ‘’distorting mirror’’ that is the Tour”.