The ball is finally rolling. At the top of the Alto da Foia, in the Volta ao Algarve, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team took its first victory of the season on Thursday thanks to David Gaudu. After an amazing teamwork throughout the day and a last push from Stefan Küng before the flamme rouge, the French climber won a confused uphill sprint to unlock his counter and that of the team. Thanks to his victory, he also took the leader’s jersey. The day’s only downside occurred beforehand with Lars van den Berg’s withdrawal following another crash in this second stage.

“We all knew what we had to do”, Stefan Küng

For David Gaudu, stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve, his second day of racing of the year, already was a good test on the slopes of Alto da Foia (7.7 km at 6%). But more than a test, it was a real goal. “We wanted to do well, we were all motivated”, said Stefan Küng. “It wasn’t bad yesterday, but it wasn’t perfect. We talked together this morning and we wanted to do better. We really wanted to be up there in the front.” First, however, it was a breakaway of five men who brought some action in this second stage, although it never appeared as a threat to the bunch. In there, the tension actually appeared as soon as the climb of Pomba was done, shortly after halfway. Already at this point, the Groupama-FDJ’s leader and his teammates were perfectly positioned at the front of the peloton. “It was really important, like yesterday”, added Philippe Mauduit. “We have a brave, determined team here. If our goal was to win at least one stage coming to this race, it’s also because I had confidence in this group. I knew they were going to race in front and fight as one.” Unfortunately, a crash with about fifty to go changed the team’s plans. Lars van den Berg and Attila Valter fell, and the Dutchman was unable to restart. “It’s a big pain,” said Philippe. “He did an exceptional job yesterday, and we wanted him for the last climb today. Fortunately, the others perfectly took over from there and did everything well”.

While the breakaway was caught thirty kilometres from the line, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team managed to get together again for the penultimate ascent, in Picota, where Fabian Lienhard, Attila Valter and Olivier Le Gac followed one another at the head of the bunch to protect their leader. At the top, only thirty riders or so were still in the mix, and David Gaudu could still count on the support of his Breton sidekick and Stefan Küng. “We knew it was very important to be positioned at the bottom of the last climb, because that was the hardest part,” added the Swiss man. The trio eventually started the climb in the very first positions and then let Ineos and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl set the tempo. However, with three kilometres to go, about twenty men were still in the bunch. “This morning, we told them not to be afraid to make the race harder if we felt that it was not hard enough”, explained Philippe. “We told them not to be afraid to take on responsibilities in the peloton”. “We all knew what we had to do,” continued Stefan. “We had established prior who would do what job at what time. Oliv’ positioned us very well at the bottom and then it was up to the two of us. We spoke with David and he told me with five kilometres to go to see how things were developing and to take things in charge with 3k if no one did. We played it perfectly, and we know that David is very fast on this kind of finish, in uphill and with a reduced group”.

“It will do everyone good”, David Gaudu

The Swiss rider pushed hard for almost two kilometres, then let David Gaudu finish the job. The French climber kept a good position and waited until the last moment to make his decisive kick in a hectic sprint. “I waited, waited, and saw they were going wide in the last corner”, said David. “I tried to turn inside as much as possible and managed to avoid the crash to my left. I was launched and I was able to cross the line first. I was in front when the crash happened, so I think I still would have won anyway. It was a sprint with some lactic acid involved, and I thought a lot about Valentin Madouas as we did this kind of effort in our training camp. It proved useful for me in this final”. Therefore, on his second day of racing, the rider from Brittany conquered his first victory of the season. It is also the first one for the team. “I am very happy I won and I think it will do everyone good”, he said. “The team was great, I want to say a big thank you because they did an incredible job. Whether it was Fabian for nearly sixty kilometres, Olivier who gave his absolute best, or Stef who pulled in the final… Everyone is committed and it’s nice to see”. “Even if David had not won, we would have recognized the teamwork done today”, claimed Philippe. “There was a proper team commitment. As David pointed out, they all played their part. That’s the only way it can work.” Stefan Küng added: “David finished the job perfectly, and it’s nice to see him win. We came for that. He was ready, we were there for him, and it paid off”.

As a bonus, David Gaudu also took the yellow jersey on Thursday evening. “We have the responsibility to defend it tomorrow”, said Philippe. “It should be a sprint finish, so we imagine that the interested teams will come to help us. We are going to honour this jersey and we will see tomorrow evening if David still has it on his shoulders. Anyway, it won’t change much in his approach to the time trial because he came here to do the best he can on that stage. We know that he will lose time on the specialists, but the race will not be over. There will be a nice stage after that and we will fight until the end. Just because we won today doesn’t mean we can get too enthusiastic. We have to stay humble and modest. It was a very nice team victory. We must now continue to look to the future with serenity and do the best possible each time we’re starting a race”. “It gives confidence, to me and to the team”, finally said David. “And the week is not over, even if it is already successful”.

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