There is definitely no rest for the riders on the Tour of the Basque Country. On Friday, stage 5 proved to be extremely grueling throughout a very hilly route. In the final, a group of favourites managed to go away, and David Gaudu then tried to limit his losses with the help of Sébastien Reichenbach. Fifteenth on the stage, the Frenchman now sits in eleventh place overall, one minute and a half behind the new leader Remco Evenepoel. Tomorrow, the race will end in Arrate,where the Groupama-FDJ’s climber took the win last year.
With 3500 meters of elevation gain featuring on the day’s course, made of only 163 kilometres, the stage promised to be quite exhausting in the Basque Country this Friday. It got even harder after a tough start, as it took almost two hours for the break to establish itself. Bruno Armirail and Sébastien Reichenbach gave it a go, but only seven riders eventually took a gap with less than 100 kilometres to go. “It was a relentless stage, with no rest”, said Philippe Mauduit. “We tried to follow the moves because we knew that some riderscould make it to the end, but also because we could have riders to help in the final in case of. It was the right strategy. It didn’t work out for us, but that’s part of the game.” Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) did enter the break, but the peloton was not satisfied with it and therefore set at franticspeed for the entire day. “When many teams, in front of our leader in the general classification, took on the chase, there was not much else to do but follow”, added Philippe. At the head of the race, Marc Soler gradually got rid of most of his breakaway colleagues and even increased his lead to four minutes.
“David is not very far from the best”, Philippe Mauduit
In the last thirty kilometres, the bunch was therefore forced to further increase the pace, and was eventually reduced to around 80 riders as it approached the ultimate climb of the day in Karabieta (6.8 km at 5.4 %). The hard tempo kept going, some more riders got dropped, then Remco Evenepoel made a sharp attack with fifteen kilometres to go. “We expected attacks on this final climb, but you then need to have the legs to follow them”, said Philippe. “It did not miss much to David. He saw the right group going away, but he couldn’t go for it at that point”. Ahead of the “bunch”, Evenepoel, Dani Martinez, Ion Izagirre, Aleksandr Vlasov, Jonas Vingegaard and Enric Mas managed to make a gap, and while Carlos Rodriguez flew to the stage win at the front, Sébastien Reichenbach took control of the yellow jersey group. “He did a good job, and it was his mission at that point in the race”,added Philippe. “Even when things don’t go our way, we must not give up and let it go. We need to work on this kind of thing, as a team, and that’s what will enable the whole group to move forward. We had to limit our losses in order to continue what we’ve been doing in the race until now”.
On the finish line, which came after some 10% slopes, David Gaudu eventually took fifteenth place, about a minute behind his opponents for the general classification. “I don’t think that, in this bunch, a lot of riders have had ten days of complete rest without even touching the bike”, said Philippe. “We don’t take that as an excuse, but let’s not forget it either. David still managed to hold on, he is not far from the best, just outside the top-10. I think he’s where he belongs.” After stage five, the Frenchman sits in eleventh place overall, now 1’33 behind the new leader Remco Evenepoel. The last great fight will take place towards Arrate, on Saturday, with more than 3500 meters of elevation again along the way. “Let’s hope they will recover well during the night, because the bodies are quite tired today“, concluded Philippe.