David Gaudu is getting closer… After two consecutive breakaways on the Tour de France, the young Frenchman stayed in the bunch on stage 17, this Wednesday, but that did not prevent him from getting his best result since the Grand Départ in Brest. In this third Pyrenean stage, finishing atop of the Col du Portet, the climber of Groupama-FDJ showed some good shape on July 14 and took a very nice fourth place, only beaten by the top-three of the general classification. A promising performance prior to the last stage in the Pyrenees.
“I have no regrets”, David Gaudu
“When he got on the bus after finishing the stage yesterday, he immediately thought about today’s stage. It was quite interesting to notice, and we could feel there was something in the making”. That is how Marc Madiot summed up David Gaudu’s post-race from Tuesday, when the young rider from Brittany took ninth place in what was a stage surely within his reach. The young man did not mull over for long and even said, this Wednesday at the start of Muret, that he would “drop [his] kerosene on the road” until the end of Pyrenees. On stage 17, towards Saint-Lary-Soulan and the summit of the Col du Portet, it was better not to slip in the day’s breakaway however. Several teams indeed tried to control from the start, and then to maintain a reasonable gap. Therefore, the six leaders of the day ended up with a maximum lead of around eight minutes. It was clearly not enough approaching the three climbs of the stage, which were only tackled after one hundred and fifteen kilometers of flat. In the Col de Peyresourde then in the Col de Val Louron-Azet, the bunch increased its pace, lost many riders, and therefore got to the bottom of the final ascent of the Col du Portet (16 km at 8.5%) four minutes behind a surviving duo.
Already quite reduced at the bottom of the climb, the peloton only included twenty men or so after the first slopes, due to the high tempo by the yellow jersey’s team. Despite his efforts from the previous days, David Gaudu was still there, following the GC contenders. The last man standing, Anthony Perez, was reeled in halfway through the climb when Tadej Pogacar made the first of his numerous attacks. A few hundreds meters later, the Slovenian got away along with Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz. “The pace was already very high before their attacks,” David said. “Uran and O’Connor tried to follow but exploded right after. As for me, I kept my own pace. I could see they were attacking each other, and there was no point in following them. I would have just ended up blowing up”. Quite quickly, the two-time Vuelta stage winner picked up a few competitors further up the road, and then attacked them with five kilometers to go. The gap to the top-three was then of about 30 seconds. “Being quite far in the overall standings, I figured they weren’t going to follow me if I attacked,” he added. “I tried to come back on my own, gave it my all, but I didn’t bridge across. Having said that, I have no regrets. There is more than a minute on the winner at the finish. I managed my climb as well as I could, and I couldn’t do better today. When you get beaten by stronger riders and you gave your all, you can’t have any regrets”.
“We have two opportunities left”, David Gaudu
Quite the opposite. After his seventh and ninth places on Sunday and Tuesday, the Frenchman showed an interesting shape to grab fourth place on the stage, amongst the best riders of the race. “I’m happy with my performance,” he said. “I recovered pretty well from yesterday. In the third week of a Grand Tour, you never really know what to expect”. “It’s a good race for him today,” said the team’s manager Marc Madiot. “It kind of shows where he belongs in the race’s hierarchy, and it’s a good thing for us to see him finish the Tour this way. Besides, he did not save his legs the day before, so that shows he’s recovering well. But he had already shown in the Vuelta last year that he’s good in the Grand Tour’s endings”. Still eleventh overall, but closest to the top 10 after his day’s performance, David Gaudu remains full of ambitions on the eve of the final mountain stage of the Tour, which will go through the Tourmalet before the Luz-Ardiden mountain-top finish. “The Tourmalet is a climb full of history, but also full of memories for the team,” he said, referring to Thibaut Pinot’s victory back in 2019. “I like this climb, and it’s also the first real one I did as a kid. I hope to recover well to make the best possible stage tomorrow. We are extremely motivated, also because Bruno will be on home soil. There are only four of us left, but we show that we’re still here in the race. We try to go in breakaways and get results. With this finish at the top and the final time trial, we have two opportunities left and we will try to make the most of them”.