One team proved to be stronger than the others on stage 1 of Paris-Nice, this Sunday. Apart from that, David Gaudu did what he needed to in order to conclude this very nervous stage with the race’s other main favourites. Following a great support from his teammates throughout the day, the French climber crossed the line twenty-two seconds behind day’s winner Christophe Laporte. The opening was intense, but he got through it pretty well.
With the 80th edition of Paris-Nice starting on Sunday, many riders could finally take on their first big objective of the season. And it all started with a slightly hilly first stage, which still very much interested the sprinters. The breakaway did not get such enthusiasm since only two men got away from the very first seconds. Matthew Holmes (Lotto-Soudal) and Aimé De Gendt (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) paved the way for almost two hours while the bunch did not let them enjoy such a large lead. The margin even dropped back faster than expected about mid-way through the race due to a rise of tension, and therefore a sudden acceleration, within the peloton. Therefore, the leading duo was caught with more than seventy kilometres to go. For about thirty minutes, the bunch remained quite nervous as everyone tried to stay in the front positions despite not such a strong wind. “It was a typical first stage of Paris-Nice where there is always a bit of wind but also traffic islands almost everywhere knowing that we are often in urban areas”, said Philippe Mauduit. “And when you leave the urban area, you find yourself in the plain where you have to face the wind. It is therefore always difficult to understand and to experience this kind of stage”. Following this first hectic sequence, the peloton eased off a little and allowed a trio made up of Frederik Frison (Lotto-Soudal), Alexis Gougeard (B&B-KTM) and Yevgeniy Fedorov (Astana-Qazakstan Team) to take the lead.
“The guys were where they needed to be, when they needed to be”, Philippe Mauduit
This trio made it to the final circuit around Mantes-la-Ville with a small lead of one minute as the bunch started to really pace up. In these last thirty kilometres, Olivier Le Gac, Quentin Pacher, Kevin Geniets and Stefan Küng, one after the other, maintained David Gaudu in the first positions. This especially allowed the young man from Brittany not to be caught behind when the bunch really stretched out with about twelve kilometres to go, just before the climb of Breuil-Bois-Robert (1.2 km at 7%). Right from the bottom, the Jumbo-Visma team set a supersonic rhythm, and nobody was able to follow. At the top, Wout van Aert, Primoz Roglic and Christophe Laporte formed the leading group, followed by a small peloton including David Gaudu. The Dutch team’s trio was not seen again in the remaining five kilometres and the victory was given to Laporte. The Groupama-FDJ’s leader finished twenty-two seconds later together with Valentin Madouas, Quentin Pacher, and the rest of the favourites. “It was a nervous day, as we expected”, summed up David. “The team worked very well for me all day. I’m happy, the feelings were pretty good for a first day of racing. We knew the finale was going to be punchy but that it was going to be hard to make a gap. Jumbo managed to do it, so congratulations to them”. “Today, they were stronger than the rest”, confirmed Philippe. “As far as we are concerned, the guys were where they needed to be, when they needed to be, in order to protect David. It’s positive. They did a very good job today. David comes in the right peloton with the leaders, so it is still a good day”. But new obstacles should come on Monday. “I’m already focused on tomorrow’s stage where they forecast some wind,” concluded David.