What a Tour de France debut for Valentin Madouas. With just four days to go, the young Frenchman managed to hold the wheels of the yellow jersey group for a long time on the queen stage that led the riders to the brutal and unprecedented Col de la Loze on Wednesday. Only dropped halfway to the summit by the general classification contenders, Valentin Madouas showed once again some combativeness to get a very good 15th place at the finish.
“There is no miracle in the Tour”, Thierry Bricaud
The days go by and the briefings are obviously similar within the Groupama-FDJ team. At the start of the great alpine stage of this 2020 Tour de France, which went up to the mythical Col de la Madeleine and the terrifying Col de la Loze, the instructions were clear on Wednesday morning in Grenoble. “We wanted to take the breakaway, that’s for sure, but it was very complicated again today,” explained Thierry Bricaud. “Valentin was about to make it. He was in the early moves but it didn’t succeed, and then a group of five went, without him and without us.” Julian Alaphilippe, Lennard Kämna, both already stage winners on this Tour, got the company of Gorka Izagirre, Richard Carapaz and Dan Martin, but the Jumbo-Visma did not want to see anyone else go up the road. “We wanted to show the same state of mind that we have been showing for a week, on the attack,” Thierry insisted. “That being said, given today’s scenario, we also knew it was going to be tough anyway for the breakaway to make it to the end. We imagined a fight between the leaders and that is what happened.”
The leading group certainly got a five-minute advantage at the bottom of the Col de la Madeleine, after 90 kilometers all flat, but things started to get serious in the bunch quite early on. “The Madeleine was climbed at a solid pace with Bahrain-McLaren in control, and the bunch lost many riders,” Thierry recalled. “There is no miracle in the Tour. You know your place compared to the leaders from the first days, then you adjust with your day condition. When your place is not among the leaders, as is the case with us for a reason or another, it is difficult to get it back just like that in a day”. Sébastien Reichenbach, third in Villard-de-Lans on Tuesday, Thibaut Pinot and Rudy Molard could not keep up with the strong pace, but Valentin Madouas managed to hold on the wheels at the back of the group until the top. “He was doing very well today, and he had a very good stage”, summarized Thierry Bricaud.
“Seeing Valentin doing this today is more than encouraging for the future”, Thierry Bricaud
For his first experience on the Tour de France, Valentin Madouas found himself at the bottom of the queen stage’s final climb with the big favourites, and some of their teammates. He then held on for ten kilometers before he decided to pace himself. “Valentin does not go over the limits, explained Thierry. He hangs on, for sure, but when he feels it goes above what he can produce, he sets his own pace. That’s why he always makes great finals.” After his fourth place on the Pas de Peyrol last week, the Frenchman took a very decent fifteenth place atop of the Col de la Loze, just beaten by … the GC’s top 14, and Sepp Kuss. No less. “I enjoyed today,” said the young man. “Things were going pretty well in La Madeleine so I thought I should hang on. I missed a little bit to stay with the group, but then in the final it was really down to the legs. Honestly it’s one of the toughest climbs I’ve ever done, the slopes are incredible. At times, I even thought we were going to set foot on the ground because it was so steep”. “It’s good for him, and it’s good for the rest of his career,” Thierry said. “He’s still learning, especially on how to manage this kind of effort, and that is also how he will continue to improve. For a week now, he hasn’t been sparing any effort, so seeing him doing this today is more than encouraging for the future. It shows that his health is very solid and that he is recovering very well.”
If he recovers enough by tomorrow morning, he will be one of the main cards of the Groupama-FDJ cycling team towards La Roche-sur-Foron, in an extremely hilly stage. “It’s a very good stage, which should suit a breakaway,” said Thierry. “It’s another great opportunity for us, and we’ll try again”.