The unique finals follow one another on the Tour of the Basque Country, but David Gaudu is still up there. After a downhill finish on Tuesday, the battle took place on extremely high slopes on Wednesday. At the end of stage 3, Jonas Vingegaard took the win atop of Amasa-Villabona while David Gaudu secured a very solid fifth place despite a messy last hour of racing. The Frenchman retains his third place overall and is now sixteen seconds behind the Danish rider, now in the yellow jersey.

With an Ardennes Classics-type of final on Wednesday, a first real confrontation between the GC contenders was anticipated in stage 3 of the Tour of the Basque Country. Yet, the fight was hard from the start since many wanted to enter the break towards Amasa-Villabona. It therefore took nearly forty kilometres for Georg Zimmermann (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Rémi Cavagna (Soudal- Quick Step), Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R-Citroën), Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), Thibault Guernalec (Arkéa-Samsic) and Simon Geschke (Cofidis) to establish the good move. The peloton did not really slow down, however, as they only gave this group a two-minute lead, with Groupama-FDJ taking on its share of responsibility through Lars van den Berg. The race then opened up quite early, both in the breakaway but also in the pack. The selection started in the first steep climbs, about sixty kilometres from the finish, and the pace never dropped from then on. In this context, David Gaudu suffered a puncture a little further on. “It was not the right time”, said Philippe Mauduit. “Because of the “barrages” and the small roads, we were far behind, and we couldn’t help him out right away. David took Romain’s bike for about fifteen kilometres. We then helped Romain out, then as soon as we were able to go back to David, we gave him his bike back. Although he was supported by his teammates, he had to make two solid efforts in intense moments, since the race exploded sixty kilometres from the finish.

“We did what we had to do, but it cost us in the end”, Philippe Mauduit

Thanks to the help of Bruno Armirail, Quentin Pacher or Michael Storer, the French climber was able to regain his place at the front of the reduced bunch, and he was also perfectly positioned approaching the last four “walls”, very short but closely grouped in the last fifteen kilometres. “The teamwork was again very good today, but we also lost Bruno due to a puncture with sixteen kilometres to go”, added Philippe. “I think he would have been able to finish with David, and he would have helped him start the final climb in a better position. That’s how it is”. At the head of the pack, the Breton proved attentive while several attacks followed one another in the final. He was however unable to get a very good position before the last, one-kilometre wall averaging 9.5% (slopes at 26%), which hosted the finish line. “We made his teammates work earlier on, but we had no choice”, explained Philippe. “We did what we had to do, but it cost us, and it cost him in the end. He was just a little bit behind in the last climb. It would have been perfect to be alongside Mas and Vingegaard, but it was surely difficult with the energy he left in his two pursuits and by positioning alone for the final climb”. When the Dane accelerated 300 meters from the line in the highest slopes, the Groupama-FDJ leader was therefore slightly in the back. He was also slowed down by a collision in front of him. “He almost stood still on the climb, and then he had to get going again”, added Philippe.

“That’s cycling”, David Gaudu

Despite the various hitches, David Gaudu fought well to the line and crossed it in fifth position, eight seconds behind Jonas Vingegaard, and six behind Mikel Landa and Enric Mas. “I think he could have done better, and at least followed Mas and Landa”, said Philippe. “We were a bit less lucky today, but that’s part of the sport. We had a difficult day, a very lively one, but we didn’t lose that much time and we remain in the top 3. We can obviously think this is a pity, but we can also be satisfied with the day given the circumstances”. “It was a special day, where we didn’t get lucky”, confirmed David. “That’s cycling and you have to deal with it. I had to make two small efforts after my puncture, but the most important is that I came back and was able to defend my chances in the final. On the last climb, we were all a little stopped behind Vingegaard and Mas. There isn’t much else to say. Given what happened today, we can be satisfied not to be too far behind and to keep our place on the podium.” Halfway through the Tour of the Basque Country, the Frenchman, who scored his 8th top-5 of the season, sits in third position overall, sixteen seconds behind the last winner of the Tour de France.

No comment