On what was a spectacular day on the Tour de France, David Gaudu and the Groupama-FDJ perfectly managed the “cobblestones stage”. The French leader avoided all troubletowards Arenberg, well supported by his teammates, and always remained within the main leaders’ group. At the finish, he only lost a few seconds to Tadej Pogacar, and moved up totwentieth place overall. A day that looked scary was eventually mastered.
“It never calms down“, Thibaut Pinot
This was the stage everyone had been talking about since the start of the race, and even for several months already. This was the stage which, within a split second, could determine the fate of one rider or the other in this Tour de France. OnWednesday, it was then cobblestones day. It all started from Lille, shortly after 1 p.m., and everything was set to end in Arenberg, 157 kilometres and eleven cobblestones sections further on. Within the Groupama-FDJ Cycling Team, the primary goal was obviously to safely bring David Gaudu to the line, but there were plenty of obstacles. That being said, the bunch first had a quiet start to the stage during which six riders took the lead: Magnus Cort, Neilson Powless (EF Education-Easy Post), Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotel-KTM), Edvald Boasson-Hagen (TotalEnergies), Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) and Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert). Their lead gradually reached four minutes, but the fight for position in the peloton began as soon as they entered the last hundred kilometres. Valentin Madouas was one of the riders leading the way until the first cobbles sector. It was from the second one, however, located after about a hundred kilometres, that the race really opened up. “It was very fast in the last fifty kilometres”, later said Thibaut Pinot. “It never calms down on the cobbles”. “I was very stressed this morning, but I felt good from the first sector”, said David Gaudu. “I really felt I had good legs.”
The young climber also had the right teammates. While the riders started to drop from the back from the very first cobbled sections, David Gaudu stayed out of trouble in the wheel of Kevin Geniets and Stefan Küng. After sector number6, more than thirty kilometres from the finish, he was therefore in a first bunch featuring his two tall teammates and some twenty riders, while a few contenders were already caught behind. “We are lucky to have great equipment, and I was also lucky to have a great Stefan Küng who was leading me on the cobblestones”, explained David. “I stayed in his wheel as much as possible”. A little further on, a crash splitthe group of favourites after a roundabout, but David Gaudu passed it through as he was in the lead with his two teammates. With twenty kilometres to go, in sector number 3, the white jersey Tadej Pogacar attacked with Jasper Stuyven, while Stefan Küng tried to maintain the pace in a very thin chasing group. “David always stayed close to me, he constantly warned me if he was there, and after the sequence of sectors, there were only about fifteen of us left in front and a few favourites were trapped”, explained the Swiss rider. “We started pulling right away, I was alone at the start, then an Arkéa-Samsic guy came to help me, but the others didn’t want to help”. Behind them, a second peloton including Vingegaard, Yates, Thomas or the yellow jersey Van Aert got organized in the final and was able to come across with about six kilometres to go. Thibaut Pinot and Valentin Madouas were also part of this group.
“I wouldn’t be there without them“, David Gaudu
At the finish, Simon Clarke took the win from the breakawaywhile Tadej Pogacar gained thirteen seconds on most of the favourites. David Gaudu therefore finished in a bunch of around fifty units, thus moving up to twentieth place overall. “It was rather a good day for us, since David, Thibaut and Valentin finished up front”, summed up Philippe Mauduit. “The guys once again did a great job as a team. Hats off to them for this day. Everyone did their part. Stefan even did a little more than expected on the last part, and actually paid for it a little in the last five kilometres. Everyone did what they had to do on this day. The public was waiting for this stage, but the teams were all stressed by it. Therefore, getting through all troubles is a good thing.” “The team was really great”, added David. “Honestly, I wouldn’t be here without them, so many thanks to them. This was an important day, and we got through it ok. It’s just a shame that the Van Aert group came back in the final, but that’s how it is! We now need to recover and stay focused”. On Wednesday evening, David Gaudu is 1’15 from the yellow jersey and remains in the mixafter this eventful day. “The team did well”, concluded Thibaut. “The most important was that David stayed in contact with the other leaders, which he did. We couldn’t lose the Tour here, so I think it’s really positive for the future. It’s a relief, but tomorrow will be another difficult day with a tricky final”. In Longwy, it’s a series of climbs that the riders will need to master.