The first big fight of the Tour de France is now behind, and David Gaudu is still in the game. This Wednesday, the riders experienced and brought one of the most exciting stages of recent years. Towards the Col du Granon, through theTélégraphe and the Galibier, the fight for the yellow jersey proved to be extremely tough. It ended up with Jonas Vingegaard taking the win and the lead. David Gaudu suffered for most of the day but got the tremendous support of his teammates and eventually put on a superb ride on the final kilometres to take 5th! A crazy day to say the last, as the finish in Alpe d’Huez looms on Thursday. The Frenchman will tackle it as seventh overall, less than a minute from the podium.
“I am nothing without the team today”, David Gaudu
The decisive moment had come. Although the first ten days of racing were extremely tiring, the first major battle between the general classification contenders was supposed to take placethis Wednesday between Albertville and the heights of Serre-Chevalier. No less than 4000 meters of elevation were spread over the last hundred kilometres of a relatively short stage, with a sequence featuring the Col du Télégraphe, the Col du Galibier and the Col du Granon, which was set to makesignificant damage. A breakaway of around twenty men tackled the first of these three climbs nine minutes ahead of the peloton, but the big moves started earlier than expected in the back. Already in the Col du Télégraphe, team Jumbo-Visma tried to destabilize the yellow jersey Tadej Pogacar, who found himself isolated and attacked in the transition to the Col du Galibier. Nevertheless, the favourite group got back together after a very lively moment. David Gaudu regained his place up there, along with Valentin Madouas and Michael Storer, before being distanced a few kilometresfurther after another acceleration. The Frenchman then hung on behind his two mates. “We were expecting a big fight today or tomorrow, or even both, and we therefore had to be mentally ready to face this frantic pace”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “This morning, we decided to ride conservatively, to follow as long as possible, but above all to not go over our limits because it was a difficult stage with difficult weather conditions”.
“It was a crazy stage, from start to finish”, said David. “I wasn’t feeling so good at the start of the stage, and in the Galibier in particular. I felt from the Telegraph that I did not have the best legs, so I managed my strength as much as I could, and I found myself with Valentin and Michael. I managed to keep calm and I had an incredible team. I always had teammates next to me, and Philippe on the radio to guide us. I am nothing without the team today. If they’re not there, I’m maybe 20 minutes down in the general standings tonight.”At the top of the Col du Galibier, the young climber was abouttwo minutes behind the Pogacar-Vingegaard duo. However, thanks to a poor cooperation in the front and a great work in the chase by Michael Storer and Valentin Madouas, togetherwith Van Aert later on, everything was back to normal before the last climb: the Col du Granon (11.4 km at 9.1%). Within a very small yellow jersey group, the fight resumed from the first slopes and David Gaudu immediately lost a few meters on his main rivals. “Once you are at the bottom of the last climb with only fifteen guys, you no longer have the right to give up”, he said. “Today was more of a fight in the head than in the legs, but I couldn’t give up. My mates have been doing a huge work for eleven days, everyone gives more than 100%, and everyone ends up exhausted everyday. So, when you find yourself in such a position, you must not give up. You think of them, and you think of Marc, who gave you his confidence”.
“It was the right tactic today”, Philippe Mauduit
Beyond the fighting spirit, David Gaudu and his teammates also proved clear-headed as they approached the final climb with a precise plan. “I expected some riders to explode, I told myself that some were going to blow after having fought so much”, added David. “At the bottom, I told Valentin that it was going to be a time trial, and we actually did a team time trial”. Behind the yellow jersey group, David Gaudu therefore did not crack, surrounded by his two bodyguards. “The bottomof the Granon was super-fast, and we told them not to try to hold on, but rather to try to manage the climb well as a whole”, added Philippe. “The guys were strong mentally, and David trusts his teammates. He knows they are there for him and that they’re doing a great job. He is not afraid to let himself get distances at times so as not to go over his limits.It’s not a tactic that we will use every day, but I am convinced that it was the right one to use today if we did not have the legs to go for the win. And I think they managed their effort really well throughout the day.” Therefore, when Jonas Vingegaard got rid of Tadej Pogacar halfway through the climb, David Gaudu also decided to attack to achieve the best finish possible. “I told myself that I had to go 5-6 kilometresfrom the summit, and this is also the moment when they attacked each other in front”, he said. “They found themselves one by one on the climb, I saw them ahead, and I wanted to go get them. They had also put in a lot of effort beforehand, and that leveled the strengths on this last climb.”
David Gaudu first caught Alexey Lutsenko, Aleksandr Vlasov, then even joined the yellow jersey Tadej Pogacar, in trouble, with two kilometres to the top. He immediately dropped him, also distanced himself from Adam Yates, before going to net a very fine fifth place on the line, two minutes behind the winner and new leader Vingegaard. “We managedthe climb really well,” said David. “In the end, I felt pretty good in the final and caught all the guys I could catch. I’m happy with my day.” Although he lost one spot in the general classification, in which he now sits seventh, David Gaudu paradoxically came closer to the podium. Six riders found themselves within a minute behind the new leader, but the finish in the Alpe d’Huez on Thursday should bring new changes. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow,” David concluded. “It’s July 14, our national holiday. It’s an iconicfinish, the one that marked me as a kid when I was watchingthe Tour. In addition, Thibaut already won there. It’s a very special stage.”