The breakaway won its duel against the bunch in stage 14 of La Vuelta, which was contested at full speed despite the hilly course. Tim Wellens took his second victory in the race while David Gaudu managed to keep his place among the favourites in the uphill finish. The Frenchman even gained one place in the overall standings and now sits 11th on the eve of the longest stage of this 2020 Tour of Spain.
On paper, the last week of the Vuelta looks to be made for the attackers. As soon as this Wednesday, with a 205-kilometer stage between Lugo and Ourense, the course seemed perfect for a breakaway to play victory. Therefore, there were many contenders at the start, like Groupama-FDJ. “We wanted to be in front, especially with Olivier Le Gac or Anthony Roux, as the stage and the finish could suit them,” said Thierry Bricaud. “Bruno and David needed to recover from yesterday’s time trial”. There were several attempts at the start of the race, but after about fifty kilometers, a group of seven riders managed to distance itself from the pack. With no rider in front, Groupama-FDJ’s main goal eventually was to protect David Gaudu, but it does not mean the day was peaceful. “Even after the breakaway went, the pace continued to be really high,” added Thierry. “It was a very, very tough stage. There was no rest at all. We actually noticed that many riders were tired. A lot of them got dropped and a few abandoned. It was not easy for our riders either, except for David who had recovered well, and for Anthony who did a good job. In front of the TV, this is typically the kind of stage where you can think that not much is happening. Actually, it was going up and down all day and the peloton was in a long line most of the stage. It was a really exhausting stage. Tonight everyone is tired, both physically and nervously”.
“Anything can happen”, Thierry Bricaud
The breakaway of seven, reduced to six in the finale, eventually resisted the relentless chase of the peloton. The latter finally gave up with about twenty kilometers to go. In front, Tim Wellens outsprinted Michael Woods for the win. About four minutes later, the bunch tackled the final climb (1100 meters at 6.5%) at full speed and David Gaudu maintained his position perfectly alongside the favourites, grabbing 17th place on the line. “He had a good position approaching the climb and he was able to finish with the best”, commented Thierry. Thanks to a small split to George Bennett, the Frenchman also gained one place in the overall. “It shows that he is very focused on what he needs to do, and he keeps this top 10 in mind even though the goal is another stage victory.” Now eleventh overall, the 24-year-old climber will have to be just as careful tomorrow for the longest stage of this Vuelta (230 kilometers). “We will also have difficult weather conditions”, said Thierry. “We’ll probably have a bit of rain, and it could do some damage if it’s a bit cold like today. It can be another exhausting stage and the breakaway will have its chance again. That being said, anything can happen, as we are at the end of the third week of a Grand Tour, at the end of the season moreover. A GC team might try to turn everything upside down, especially with difficult weather conditions. We could also have a big group moving away with the main favourites in there. We will have to stay focused on that, ride in front, but also be opportunistic at the start to aim for the stage victory”.