David Gaudu resumed the Tour de France on Tuesday in the same way he paused it before the rest day: by being on the attack. After his breakaway to Andorra la Vella on Sunday, which ended with seventh place, the young French climber again succeeded in entering the right move during stage 16 towards Saint-Gaudens. However, always a step behind the winner Patrick Konrad, he had to settle for ninth place on the day inside a chasing group. The Groupama-FDJ leader got his third top-10 in this Tour de France, climbed to eleventh overall but is already eyeing the next opportunities.
“Everyone was looking at David”, Frédéric Guesdon
In the aftermath of the second rest day, the Tour de France resumed its journey through the Pyrenees on Tuesday, after starting it on Sunday towards Andorra. The riders started stage 16 from that same country, but heading back to France and Saint-Gaudens through the Col de Port, Col de Core and Col du Portet-d’Aspet. Once again, the profile perfectly suited a breakaway, but as usual on this 2021 Tour, the breakaway established itself quite late. Kasper Asgreen started the fireworks early on, but the Dane’s and a few others’ attempt was caught in the downhill of Col de Port, after nearly sixty kilometers. “The start was very fast and the fight lasted for a long time,” confirmed Frédéric Guesdon. “The good move eventually went just after the descent of the first climb”. A trio including Fabien Doubey, Christopher Juul-Jensen and Jan Bakelants took the lead, then a chasing group of a dozen riders found itself just behind. David Gaudu managed to get into this group. “I wanted to save myself a bit at the start and possibly take the breakaway if I was feeling good then,” he said. “I managed to feel the right move and was among the last ones to break away, along with Skujins, Wright and Aranburu”.
However, the chase group started the long Col de la Core (13km at 6.6%) with a 45-second deficit on the leading trio. From the first slopes, Patrick Konrad attacked alone to bridge across while David Gaudu chose to wait. “I was feeling pretty well, I had good legs,” he said. “When Konrad went on his own, I thought that it was still really far from the finish. In the end, he might have made the good choice, because I had to pace up towards the top as my group was not climbing so fast”. Up front, Konrad replaced Juul-Jensen in the leading trio, but the latter only started the downhill with a 15-second margin. The two groups were about to come back together, but it did not happen. “We accelerated, but almost closed the gap, but the cooperation then became not so good”, said David. “Maybe they were a little afraid of me in the Col du Portet-d’Aspet”. The gap increased again, to over thirty seconds, and the young Frenchman found himself a bit trapped. “He was closely followed because he was the best climber with Konrad on paper, explained Frédéric. “Everyone was looking at him. Konrad, his main rival, took a step ahead and did a perfect race. David tried to catch him, but he could never close the gap and did not receive too much help from the others.”
“Hopefully I will be able to attack again”, David Gaudu
On the highest gradients of the Col du Portet-d’Aspet, the two-time stage winner on the Vuelta certainly tried to go all-in by setting up a strong tempo. “I attacked again and this time we went with Colbrelli,” David continued. “We were only 20 seconds behind at the summit, but we never got back eventually. Konrad did a huge ride. No matter how hard we pulled together and sprinted to get back in each other’s wheel, we couldn’t bridge across, so chapeau to him”. “David was a bit isolated, and maybe the course wasn’t hard enough for him today,” added Frédéric. Patrick Konrad crossed the line as a winner forty-five seconds before the chasing group that contested the remaining places. In this reduced sprint, David Gaudu got a bit boxed-in and had to settle for ninth place. “He is disappointed and so are we, because only the victory matters on the Tour,” commented Frédéric. “He tried, it didn’t work out. It’s a pity because I think he had the legs to pull it off. I’m sure he will have another chance to win by the end of the Tour”. Now eleventh overall thanks to the thirteen minutes he took on the peloton, David Gaudu concluded positively: “It’s still a good sign. I had good feelings and I felt strong. I will now need to recover. There are two stages left to give the maximum and hopefully I’ll be able to attack again.”