David Gaudu saved the best for last. On the final stage of the Tour of the Basque Country, which was also the toughest one, the young climber of the Groupama-FDJ cycling team showed all his talent and grit. Attentive when he needed to be and really impressive on the climbs, the Frenchman took a prestigious victory at Arrate. At the end of a frenetic race, he also brought to the team its first WorldTour win this year. Finishing together with the overall winner Primoz Roglic, David Gaudu also completed his week in fifth position in the general classification. He’s now perfectly on track for the Ardennes Classics.

“It was insane!” David Gaudu

Just 112 kilometers had to be covered to close the 2021 edition of the Tour of the Basque Country on Saturday, but there were the toughest ones. Seven climbs, including three of the first category, featured on the course, and the riders got to the heart of the matter as soon as the start was given, just before 3 pm. As expected, “there were riders all over the place straight away, and it never stopped,” said Franck Pineau. “The race opened up early and it all came down to the legs.” It was then a small bunch of around thirty riders that tackled the first big climb of the day, after fifteen kilometers. A few riders went away, but since the intensity never decreased, the gaps remained quite small. At the top of the fourth climb, around ten men were just a minute ahead of the yellow jersey group, which featured David Gaudu. The Frenchman was actually perfectly on the alert when the race’s first turning point occurred, in the Elosua’s downhill. “At the briefing, we made it clear that the race could be played as much in the downhills as in the climbs,” said Franck. “Like all week, it was necessary to be well positioned at the top of the climbs. We were sure that some would try to make the racer harder there. Luckily, David has great skills, but he still needed to be in good position”.

The two-time stage winner on the Vuelta was so, and could then enter the right move that made a gap on the rest of the bunch, and in particular on the yellow jersey Brandon McNulty and his teammate Tadej Pogacar. On the valley leading up to the next climbs, some leaders made perfect use of their teammates to make the gap grow even more. Shortly after halfway, David Gaudu then tackled the “first” climb of Arrate in the leading group. He was also the only one, along with Hugh Carthy, to be able to hold the wheel of Primoz Roglic when the Slovenian decided to accelerate on that climb. “When the three of us got away, I realized I might be one of the strongest in the day,” the young man said later. At first, however, he let the Slovenian pull on his own. “He’s the champion, and he was going for the overall,” Franck said. “Then I told David to take some turns because we could hope for the win, and it was easier to get rid of two riders than fifteen”. It was then with a 40-second advantage over the chasing group that the trio got to the bottom of the Arrate’s final climb. “Roglic told me he didn’t care about the stage,” David said. “I knew that if I took him to the finish in the last climb, he would let me the victory. But I needed to get rid of Carthy first. I attacked, and when I saw he was dropped, I gave it my all. I was going flat-out! Franck was yelling on the radio, the Basques were also shouting on the side of the road. My legs didn’t even hurt anymore! I was having Goosebumps, it was crazy, mental!”

“I am proud of David, and of the whole team”, Franck Pineau

After he did the entire climb in the front and held back the chasers, David Gaudu could start to enjoy his victory when Roglic congratulated him in the last kilometre. He then celebrated his second win of the season, but also one of the finest of his career. “It was an incredible day. I hadn’t experienced any other like it before”, he added. “I was always calm and confident. I didn’t think too much, I raced the way I wanted to and it paid off. I especially want to remember how I won. It came down to the legs the whole day, from the beginning to the end, and I came away with the win. Maybe this is what makes me happy the most.” “He really rode perfectly,” added Franck. “He made it look easy, like it happens from time to time in cycling. We wanted him to finish in style. We can tell he really did. He raced like a champ. I think he even had the means to drop Roglic if he had to. He was extremely strong and he did not make any mistake. I’m proud of him, but also of the whole team. We must not forget all the work that was upstream by all his teammates. We worked for him all week for him to be at the top of his game on this last stage. All the little efforts he did not have to do the previous day could be used today”. “Everyone has been flawless,” confirmed David. “They trusted me and I can only thank them for what they did”.

Finally, the Frenchman took advantage of his performance to climb to fifth place in the final general classification. He can now head towards the Ardennes Classics with a high morale. “The Tour of the Basque Country is really the optimal preparation race for these events,” he concluded. “Now, I just need to stay focus. I hope I will be there in great shape.”

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