In the aftermath of the summit finish on the Grand Colombier, the Tour de France peloton entered the Alps on Saturday in a spectacular way. In what was a monstrous stage, the intensity never dropped and major gaps were made. For a long time, Thibaut Pinot tried to really break away, but the yellow jersey’s team never gave the fugitives a chance. A race of attrition therefore took place as the stage progressed. David Gaudu was left distanced by the main favorites in the last climb of the day, and eventually reached the finish in eleventh place. On Saturday, he slipped down to tenth overall. A second stage in the Alps will close the second week of the Tour tomorrow.
For the first time since the start of the Tour, the riders were to tackle a stage featuring more than 4000 meters of climbing on Saturday. Across the 151 kilometres leading to Morzine, five climbs were listed, including three of first-category and one Hors Category: the Col de Joux Plane (11.7 km at 8.5%), whose summit was located just thirteen kilometres before the finish line. However, the first part of the race also had its impact. The start was even given twice, since a huge crash in the first five kilometres neutralized the race for about thirty minutes. “We felt that it was nervous and tense at the beginning, even more so after the light rain at the start”, explained Thibaut Pinot. “There was this big crash, then everyone wanted to be in the breakaway. It was a high-pressure start to the stage.” In the first 1st-category climb, namely the Col de Cou, the French climber made an attack to join the leading group and go for the stage victory. Yet, his hope to succeed was immediately shut down. Thibaut Pinot and a few others did try to give momentum to the break, but the peloton led by Jonas Vingegaard’s Jumbo-Visma never gave them more than forty seconds. “I first wanted to reduce the group because we weren’t working together so well, but it was really hard mentally to see that the whole Jumbo-Visma train was pulling behind”, explained Thibaut.
“You need to adapt and try to give the best”, Philippe Mauduit
The fight still kept on going for about fifty kilometres, before the yellow jersey group finally caught the fugitives at the bottom of the Col de la Ramaz (14 km at 7%), the penultimate climb of the day. “The most dangerous rider up front was ten minutes back overall, but the breakaway never had more than a minute,” said Philippe. “Thibaut had good legs, he was in front, but if some decide that the breakaway should not go, it just doesn’t. It’s like that. You need to adapt and try to give the best every day. We wanted to be aggressive, we tried, but it doesn’t always work”. Although it all came back together, the race did not calm down. On the contrary, the pace further increased, and what was left of the bunch continued to reduce. After getting the support of Stefan Küng, Kevin Geniets and Valentin Madouas until the Col de la Ramaz, David Gaudu tried to follow the GC favourites, and fought hard until the top to tackle the descent inside a group of about fifteen riders. The Breton proved attentive in the downhill and safely kept his position until the Col de Joux Plane. However, when the pace intensified on the first slopes, the Groupama-FDJ leader was forced to let the yellow jersey group go and take his own pace. In the lead, Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar fought as expected, but were eventually surprised by Carlos Rodriguez in the downhill to Morzine.
“We’ll try again, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll go for it again”, Thibaut Pinot
David Gaudu finished six minutes after the Spaniard, in eleventh position. “My day in two words? Flat out”, he summed up. “It was flat out from start to finish. It was hard, and I can’t go much faster. There isn’t much else to say. They went very fast at the bottom of Joux Plane, and I couldn’t keep up. I was already at the limit when I reached the top of La Ramaz. I wasn’t as good as other days today, and on the Tour, you pay for it”. “David is at his best level, he is even stronger than last year”, claimed Philippe Mauduit. “That’s how it is, that’s high-level sport. From time to time, you come across stronger competitors. The guys are doing everything right, they’re doing what they need to do, but it is not enough”. After a stage which eliminated some GC contenders through crashes, failures, and created huge gaps, David Gaudu remains in the top-10 overall (10th) but the Frenchman now has other ambitions. “We’ll forget this day quickly and focus on tomorrow,” he added. “We will try again, and if it does not work, we’ll go for it again”, said Thibaut. “We’re still ambitious”, concluded Philippe. “We want to take this breakaway which would allow us to win a stage”.