The real fight has not yet started on the Critérium du Dauphiné, but the riders still had to tackle some nice climbs on Monday. After an explosive final in stage 2, David Gaudu perfectly fulfilled his mission as he got to the finish line with the favourites’ peloton, which also included his teammates Bruno Armirail and Valentin Madouas. The young Frenchman even took tenth place on the day while Lukas Pöstlberger grabbed a solo win.

“They were just focused”, Thierry Bricaud

Although the breakaway got successful on Sunday, the fight to enter it on Monday proved really brief starting from Brioude. After only ten minutes, five men went away: Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-hansgrohe), Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa-Samsic), Rob Power (Qhubeka-ASSOS), Shane Archbold (Deceuninck-Quick Step) as well as Matthew Holmes (Lotto-Soudal). Their lead even reached the five-minute mark before they faced the first major climb of this Dauphiné at kilometre 45: the Col de Peyra Taillade (8.6 km at 7.2%). From then on, it was just up and down all day for the riders. Just like on Sunday, Bahrain-Merida came to set the pace for their sprinter but the gap would not decrease quickly. At the same time, the bunch started to get nervous approaching the last 40k and more particularly the long downhill towards Langeac. In this portion, it actually split a little and David Gaudu and Matthieu Ladagnous then found themselves with a small gap. “The guys were at the right place at the right time”, said Thierry Bricaud. “They were just focused. It just happened like that, it wasn’t planned. We did not keep pushing afterwards. It was useless; we were still a long way from the finish. It does show that they were careful though, so that’s very good. That being said, we weren’t worried about that. They are focused on their race, they want to do well, and we also know that the race can sometimes go one way or the other depending on positioning.”

The peloton thus got back all together on the flat part leading to the last two climbs of the day, and David Gaudu could benefit from his teammates’ work to get in position at the bottom of the côte de la forêt de Pourcheresse (7.1 km at 6.5%). While Pöstlberger went on his own at the head of the race, the pack started to lose riders from the back. “We wanted to be aggressive but there was a headwind in the final,” Thierry added. “Therefore, it was difficult to create gaps. It would have been much different with a tailwind. Then, we just had to be careful, and they were indeed because it was quite tense at the very end”. Approaching the summit, a few attacks occurred in the reduced peloton and David Gaudu followed the moves nicely. The short côte de Masset then stretched the favourites’ group but no major damage was done. Lukas Pöstlberger managed to stay away for a few seconds to get the stage win while David Gaudu took tenth place on the day. Valentin Madouas and Bruno Armirail also finished in the first bunch of 42 riders. “David just followed the sprint in order to avoid any split”, added Thierry. “It’s good, they are well into it. Bruno and Valentin are where we expect them to be. They are where they’re supposed to be and it shows their altitude camp did them good. We’ll see how it will go in real mountains at the end of the week, but it still shows they’ve recovered well”.

“So far so good”, Bruno Armirail

Third in the Mercan’Tour Classic a week ago, Bruno Armirail also said a few words to sum up the stage. “It was still pretty hard, there was a high pace all day,” he said. “I did not have the best feelings today, but I was able to help David and that is the main thing. In particular, it was necessary to protect him from the side wind at the top of the climb, or to give him something to drink. That is also my role (smiles)! David did not lose time, he’s there in the mix, and so is Valentin. We know we can’t win the Dauphiné in the first stages, but we can lose it. So far so good, that’s the most important thing”. “We hoped that these first two days would go smoothly, and they did”, added Thierry. “We still have tomorrow’s stage to go through. We will then have to do a good time trial in order to limit the losses, and then we will get to the mountains, where we’ll need to take risks and initiatives to go for a stage win. If we succeed, the overall will come along”. On Tuesday, the stage finally looks suitable for a bunch sprint, but one should never let his guard down. “The finish is slightly uphill,” Bruno said to conclude. “We’ll have to pay attention to potential splits in the bunch. It would be silly to lose time like that. We will have to position David well and do our best to make sure he gets to the time trial in the best possible conditions”.

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