That’s quite of a start to the Tour de France for David Gaudu. After almost a week of racing, the young Frenchman still is completely in the mix, and he proved it once again in Longwy on Thursday. On the hilly final where the GC contenders put on a fight, the Groupama-FDJ leader sprinted to third place in this sixth stage, behind the winner and new yellow jersey Tadej Pogacar. On the eve of a first mountain test at the Super Planche des Belles Filles, David Gaudu not only scored his first stage podium on the Tour, but he also moved up to tenth place overall.
A long day was looming for the riders this Thursday on the Tour de France with the stage featuring most kilometres of this 2022 edition. Nearly 220 were indeed on the menu between the start of Binche, in Belgium, and the finish in Longwy, in East of France. However, the time passed by faster than expected during the first two hours of racing, covered at an average speed above 50 km/h. The fight for the breakaway, which took place for nearly eighty kilometres, led to that crazy start. “It was an extremely trying, nervous stage from start to finish,” said Philippe Mauduit. Eventually, only three men were able to hit the front, including the yellow jersey Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), together with Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech) and Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo). “We didn’t know this morning if the breakaway was going to make it or not, but once we saw that there were only three riders in front, we could imagine that the victory would be decided in a reduced bunch”, added Philippe. “It was therefore an almost classic scenario, actually”. While the bunch tried not to leave too much space to the leading trio, the instructions within the Groupama-FDJ team were just as clear as the previous days. “It was important to protect David all day, and that’s what the guys managed to do,” added Philippe. “The week has gone well so far, the team has done a huge work”, greeted David. “We know what we have to do, we are focused. Everyone does his bit and everyone helps each other. I have a great team on paper and on the road. It’s just fun and great.”
“Nothing to be ashamed of”, David Gaudu
In the second half of the race, several teams took on the chase in the bunch to gradually reduce the gap, which went up to four minutes at best. The leading trio became a duo before the last hour of racing, then Van Aert tried to go alone in the last thirty kilometres. Despite being Van Aert, he could not however stay away from the bunch. He was caught and dropped in the second of the four climbs featuring in the final. The battle then began in the pack, and riders first got distance from the back before Tadej Pogacar tested his legs for the first time on the Pulventeux climb (800m at 11%). In his wheel was… David Gaudu! The Frenchman even tried a small counterattack approaching the top before thirty men or so regrouped for the finish in Longwy. The last climb (1.6 km at 6%) was covered at a high pace, without attacks, and everything then came down to the sprint. “Everyone was tired in the final”, said David. “In the sprint everyone felt the lactic acid. I managed to take the right wheel at the right time: that of Roglic who launched as he usually does with 400 meters to go. However, there was headwind and we kind of slowed down. Only Pogacar smashed us when he launched at 250 metres”. In a good position at the front of the pack, David Gaudu delivered a strong sprint to come away with third place on the line, behind the Slovenian and Michael Matthews. He therefore grabbed four bonus seconds. “We can be satisfied to be third on a finish like this”, assured Philippe. “There were around thirty riders at the bottom of the home stretch, which means that David is up there with the very best of the Tour de France”. “I think there is nothing to be ashamed of regarding my performance”, said the young man. “But it was just a punchy finish. Tomorrow will be even more crucial”.
Already focused on the finish at the Super Planche des Belles Filles, where he launched Thibaut Pinot back in 2019, David Gaudu still obtained his first career podium on the Tour de France. He is also now in tenth place overall, 1’02 from the yellow jersey. A good sign before the first summit finish on Friday. “We’ll need to recover, because it will be hard”, he added. “Pogacar took the jersey, he already won today, but he may still want to win tomorrow. We’ll need to be ready physically but also mentally. We’ve been focused for a week now, but we must keep going this way. Let’s hope things will go well and we will take stock tomorrow, then a new Tour de France will begin”. Towards the Vosges mountains, David Gaudu will also be able to count on Olivier Le Gac and Kevin Geniets, who crashed without damage on Thursday.