The Tour de Luxembourg ended in the best possible way for the Groupama-FDJ cycling team on Saturday. In the capital’s streets and following an explosive final, David Gaudu managed to secure the win after a smart attack in the last few hundred metres. The Frenchman not only made the team’s race balance really positive, but also unlocked both his counter (3) and that of the team (22), stuck for five and one month respectively. In short, he brought a much-needed win and one that bodes well for the upcoming races.
“I didn’t want to have any regrets”, David Gaudu
Just like in the previous days, the terrain was once again quite hilly on Saturday, in the closing stage of the Tour de Luxembourg. Almost 3,300 meters of elevation gain were actually spread over the 183 kilometers course, and a tiring final circuit around the capital suggested a lively final. Beforehand, a breakaway made of Ben King (Rally Cycling), Otto Vergaerde (Alpecin-Fenix), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X) and Kenny Molly (Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces WB) tried to play its card against the bunch and even enjoyed up to a seven minute-gap. However, the latter was reduced to two minutes with thirty-five kilometres to go, shortly before entering the circuit. “We planned to make the race harder at that point, but other teams did it for us, so we let them do it,” explained Sébastien Joly. In the short but steep Pabeierbierg (700m at 9%), the selection began. The peloton was first reduced by half, and lost some other riders a lap later when Sébastien Reichenbach pushed hard in that same climb with about fifteen kilometers remaining. Reichenbach, still him, later launched an attack in the other, more rolling climb of the circuit. “It was good to attack to keep the other teams working,” said Sébastien Joly. “It enabled us to get to the bottom of the last climb in good conditions”. About forty men were still there starting the final hill, as the summit was located just one kilometre from the finish line.
As expected, the climb proved extremely intense and Cosnefroy, Almeida and Hirschi managed to reach the top with a small margin. “When Cosnefroy attacked, it was very brutal, including for the top three,” explained Sébastien. “At the top, they were not looking at each other, they were out of breath. This is when David decided to attack”. Slightly in the back in the final part of the climb, David Gaudu first bridged across and then seized the right moment to attack, 500 meters from the line. He said: “Since last night, I was thinking not to attack in the climb. I was like, ‘if you attack, just do it once, in the last kilometre, when everyone’s looking at each other’. This is what happened. It was a very hard final and I felt that I was not the strongest today. If I wanted to win, I had to counter at the top. I didn’t want to have any regrets so I was like ‘go for it and we’ll see’. I managed to get a small gap, took the last corner as fast as I could and gave it my all until the finish line. I was afraid the scenario of the first day would repeat itself. I saw the yellow jersey coming back, but I gave it my all in the sprint and it was enough!” The young man therefore conquered the day’s victory just ahead of Joao Almeida and a dozen riders, including Thibaut Pinot. “David felt the right move”, said Sébastien. “He’s got that racer’s feeling. It’s really inspiring for everyone, and that’s what I’ll recall from today as well. Already in the first stage, he attacked at the right time. He feels things, and that’s what makes you a real racer. It’s good that it paid off today. The terrain was probably not hard enough for us on paper, but it’s always up to us to adjust. And David adjusted quite well.”
“We feel a good momentum growing”, Sébastien Joly
The entire team was obviously euphoric at the finish line, celebrating a collective effort paying off. “We deserve this victory”, emphasised Thibaut, thirteenth on the day and seventh overall, one spot behind David Gaudu. “The whole team was going really great and we were close from that win for a few races. It’s great to finally finish it off”. “I’m very happy, and that rewards the week from the team,” David said. “From the start of the race, we were there, on the attack, and trying to do things right. Even today, the team did a great job all day to position us for the climbs and to protect us from the wind. We had been looking for a win for a while. It’s done, so we’re happy. It’s good for me personally, but I think it’s good for the whole team as well”. “It is good indeed, especially since it is a victory in a great, Hors Categorie race, with big teams and a high level field,” said Sébastien Joly. “Generally speaking, we feel a good momentum growing. It bodes well for the end of the season. The week’s balance is good, and it especially allowed us to see where we stood physically. We saw that we were up there in the most difficult stages. It’s promising for the Italian Classics. It was far from a preparation race, but it was still an excellent preparation for these races which are coming in about ten days”.
Before the final straight in Italy, David, Thibaut & co will enjoy a small rest. “We leave this race full of confidence,” David concluded. “We will continue to work in order to fine-tune the last details, then we’ll be heading to the Italian Classics”.