Everyone was worried about the last kilometres of the Tour of the Basque Country’s second stage on Tuesday. Located after a downhill, the finish sparked a controversy, but David Gaudu perfectly handled the situation and took third place on the line. In a very good position at the top of the last climb, then at the head of the bunch in the descent, the Frenchman mastered this dangerous final and was even able to gain four bonus seconds. These allowed him to move up to third place overall this Tuesday evening.
In the longest stage of the 2023 Tour of the Basque Country on Tuesday, the breakaway went from the very first kilometre of racing. Jesus Ezquerra (Burgos-BH), Alan Jousseaume (TotalEnergies), Javier Romo (Astana Qazaqstan Team), Txomin Juaristi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jon Barranextea (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Carlos Carcia (Equipo Kern Pharma) therefore hit the front with 190 kilometres and several climbs on the day’s menu. The bunch first let the gap reach seven minutes before increasing the pace in the second half of the course. It occurred more specifically with seventy-five kilometres to go, before a sequence of climbing. Like the day before, David Gaudu could count on his teammates, in particular Bruno Armirail and Michael Storer, to keep him safe in the top positions. In the climb of Saldias, nearly fifty kilometres from the finish, Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) launched an attack but wasn’t followed by any GC contenders. The Spanish rider caught the morning breakaway, before he was himself caught on the first slopes of the final, extremely rolling climb to Arkiskil (11km at 3%). The pack set a steady pace behind a few attackers, and really accelerated as they approached the top, located just five kilometres from the finish. “All the teams had the same goal”, said Philippe Mauduit. “The finish was almost at the summit of the final climb. Then it was every man for himself on the downhill. You weren’t going to gain positions, and you were just hoping that the guys in front of you wouldn’t make mistakes”.
“They nailed it once again”, Philippe Mauduit
A few hundred meters before the start of the descent, Quentin Pacher, Romain Grégoire and David Gaudu all made a huge effort to start the downhill section in the first fifteen positions. “The priority is always the riders’ health and safety”, resumed Philippe. “That being said, we do know we’re racing and that we need to secure a result. We had, despite this safety issue, to make sure that the riders were focused and put them in the best possible conditions before approaching such a dangerous final. In the end, they nailed it once again. They worked very well as a team, there is nothing to complain about. Everyone took his part, and everyone accomplished his mission”. From the first corners of the descent, David Gaudu placed himself in the first five positions, and he never left them. “There is no doubt about his qualities as a descender, he has shown them several times in the past”, added Philippe. “That said, the stakes were not the same as during a downhill where you have to catch up with a group. Risk-taking is different, and it wasn’t just about the overall riders today. This increased the possibility of crashes and mistakes. David went through it all and he mastered the situation with quite a composure.” Despite various attacks on this closing kilometres, the Breton leader was therefore together with the first men entering the last, flat 500 meters. He also wisely moved up to third place before a series of curves leading to the finish.
“I was third in the corner, I was third on the line”, David Gaudu
“Honestly, it was a shameful final”, said David. “A corner with 75 metres to go, a technical downhill, it was not ideal… I still had to be up there to avoid the splits. That’s what I managed to do, and in addition, we gained some bonus seconds”. David Gaudu indeed crossed the line in third place on Tuesday, behind Ide Schelling and Matteo Sobrero, in what was an atypical stage to say the least. “I was third in the corner, I was third on the line, and there was not much more I could do”, he said. “The team worked very well today to put me in the best conditions, so thanks to them”. “This third place is first of all a good thing for the team”, said Philippe. “It adds confidence to what they already achieved yesterday and today, it makes David even more confident, and it’s always good for our GC ambitions”. Thanks to four bonus seconds, the Groupama-FDJ climber climbed to third place overall on Tuesday evening. He is six seconds behind the day’s winner, while an explosive and more traditional final is expected on Wednesday. “We will do our best to put David, Quentin and Romain in the best possible conditions before the last hour of racing”, concluded Philippe. After a crash on the final downhill on Tuesday, Romain Grégoire suffered some wounds but escaped any major injury.