The first test for the GC contenders on the Critérium du Dauphiné was set for this Wednesday, from Cours to Belmont-de-la-Loire. Over exactly 31.1 kilometres, a tricky time trial was to establish a first hierarchy before the mountainous weekend. Still looking for his best shape, David Gaudu tried to limit his losses on stage 4, which he finally finished in 34th place. Halfway through the race, he sits in 20th position overall, 2’22 behind the new leader Mikkel Bjerg.

An unusual time trial was looming for the riders of the Critérium du Dauphiné this Wednesday. Already decisive for the general classification, stage 4 featured more than thirty kilometres and had quite a particular profile. It all started with a small two-kilometre climb before a nice descent and a more rolling portion. Finally, the last ten kilometres, slightly uphill, were made for the strong men. Matthieu Ladagnous was the first Groupama-FDJ rider to tackle this route, shortly before 2 p.m. Reuben Thompson, Olivier Le Gac, then Valentin Madouas, Lenny Martinez, Kevin Geniets and of course David Gaudu then did the same. The young man from Brittany started at exactly 3:31 p.m., and he seemed totally on track at the first checkpoint, located after ten kilometres. However, he lost a few places at the second checkpoint, and he eventually reached the line in twenty-first position provisionally, 1’55 from the best mark held by Rémi Cavagna at the time. After all the competitors completed the course, David Gaudu found himself in 34th position, 2’22 behind the winner and new yellow jersey Mikkel Bjerg.

“The road is still long before the Tour”, David Gaudu

“I was going well for the first half, then the final kind of killed me”, analysed David. “Did I start too fast? Did I struggle because of the first hot temperatures? I don’t know. Of course, I’m disappointed, but I may still be a bit lacking some race rhythm. It’s surely not the time trial I expected, but the road is still long before the Tour, and we are also here to work. We’re not going to think too much over it. We have to move on.” “It’s not his best time trial but it’s not dramatic given the preparation he has had since the Ardennes Classics”, confirmed Philippe Mauduit. “He expected better because he is ambitious, but I’m not worried. He’s still confident. We have to stay calm, even if it’s not a very good day. The Tour finishes in six weeks, it’s a long time. So, there is still work to be done.” However, the French climber still moved up in the general standings on Wednesday. After four stages, he is twentieth, 2’22 from the leader and just over a minute from the top-10. “We wanted to be close to the podium on the Dauphiné, but it will be complicated”, he confessed. “That said, this race is not the number 1 goal. We are going to keep our chin up, and there are still some great stages to come. We are going to leave the classifications aside a bit and have fun while working for the Tour”.

Before two tough stages in the high mountains this weekend, two punchy days are looming in the next 48 hours. “The goal here is to get the race rhythm, so we will be aggressive to both work and get a stage win”, concluded Valentin Madouas. “There will be opportunities for the breaks on Thursday and Friday. We will need to be offensive and take risks, and that’s what we came for”.

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