The second and last Pyrenean stage of the 110th Tour de France led to another fight among the favorites, on Thursday, at the top of Cauterets-Cambasque. The general classification further evolved, Jonas Vingegaard took the lead, and David Gaudu fought hard to remain in the fight for the podium. Slightly distanced in the final of stage 6, the Frenchman took thirteenth place of the day, almost three minutes behind the two big favourites, but just thirty seconds from his main rivals. After the Pyrenees, he sits in seventh place overall before two stages for the sprinters/punchers.

On Thursday, the riders had a tough menu ahead to complete the first proper massif of the 2023 Tour. Nearly 4000 meters of elevation gain featured throughout the 145 kilometres of stage 6. More importantly, the peloton had to tackle a myth of the event: the Col du Tourmalet (17 km at 7.4%), climbed after the Col d’Aspin (12 km at 6.6%) but before the irregular, final ascent towards Cauterets-Cambasque (16 km at 5.3%). On this terrifying day, the breakaway was formed from kilometre 0, in the wake of Wout van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe. However, the gap remained rather small before starting the big climbs. “We wanted to have someone in front, but we didn’t succeed,” said Philippe Mauduit. “From there on, the guys were focused around David and tried to support him the best they could all day.” A first skimming occurred both in front and in the back on the Col d’Aspin, but the big moves only started on the col du Tourmalet. Within the yellow jersey group, the pace gradually increased, before the Jumbo-Visma shattered what was left from the bunch three kilometres from the summit. Soon enough, Vingegaard and Pogacar broke away from the rest of the favorites, who regrouped behind. “We knew that Jumbo wanted to put the boot in”, said Thibaut Pinot. “We weren’t surprised by their move, but no one was really able to follow. The yellow jersey Jai Hindley tried but he exploded. They are going too fast for us, so we do our own race, for the podium”.

“Not my best day”, David Gaudu

With more than fifty kilometres from the finish, the two big favourites of the race took off then joined the breakaway. In the meantime, a yellow jersey group of about fifteen men was established with the other GC contenders, including David Gaudu, who still had Thibaut Pinot alongside him at the top of the Tourmalet. In the following descent then in the valley, the group lost some more time and tackled the final climb three minutes behind the head of the race. In the lead, Pogacar was able to get rid of Vingegaard and take the stage victory. Within the GC group, David Gaudu was forced to let go three rivals, but still reached the line in thirteenth position at Cauterets-Cambasque, more than three minutes from the winner, but thirty seconds from Jai Hindley, Simon Yates, and Carlos Rodriguez. “I felt rather good on the final climb, but I exploded suddenly, 2.5 kilometres from the summit”, said the climber. “That’s how it is. It was a very hard day. Unfortunately, it was not my best one, but the Tour is an endurance race. Sometimes you feel great, sometimes it’s more complicated. Anyway, it was important to still be there and limit the losses”. Still next to his leader until the final climb, Thibaut Pinot took twentieth place of the day, thirty seconds behind the man from Brittany.

“We’re still in the mix”, Marc Madiot

In the general classification, David Gaudu moved up from tenth to seventh place on Thursday. He is 4’03 behind the new leader Jonas Vingegaard and about 2’30 away from third place, taken by Jai Hindley. “The positive part is that we are getting closer to the podium in terms of positions. On the other hand, we lost time on those who fight for it”, analysed Philippe. “But once again, the Tour is going to be long, hard and full of surprises”. A point of view shared by the whole team. “If you turn the roadbook’s pages, you realize that we have done almost nothing”, added Marc Madiot. “We’re still in the mix, and it will be an elimination race”. “On the col de la Loze, the gaps will be counted in minutes”, recalled Thibaut, now 18th overall. “The Tour is very long. Above all, we can’t have a bad day, and if others have one, we’ll need to take advantage of it. We don’t feel like we’re on day 5 of the Tour, but rather at the end of the second week because the fatigue is already there and so are the gaps. It’s quite promising for the third week”. David Gaudu concluded: “There are still a lot of mountains to come. We continue to fight, and the Alps will be decisive for sure. The Tour is still very, very, very long. We’re not going to lose our course. Actually, we slowly but surely improve on the general classification. The team is motivated, we need to keep fighting, and cope with the harder days. There may be difficult days for others too, and that is when we will need to seize the opportunity”.

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