On the long climb towards La Plagne’s summit, which was set to conclude the first major mountain stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné on Saturday, David Gaudu initiated his comeback in the general classification. Thanks to several attacks and a good seventh place at the top, the French climber climbed to ninth overall before the tough last stage. In this final day of racing, he will also ride with the white jersey on his shoulders.

“A very good team performance”, Yvon Madiot

The first actual fight among the favourites was supposed to occur on the slopes of the climb to La Plagne this Saturday. However, before getting there, the riders had to get through the Col des Prés (13 km at 7.7%) and the Cormet de Roselend (6km at 6.4%), but also to cover a quite flat first half of the stage. “The first part was very fast, and no breakaway could establish itself before km 70,” explained Yvon Madiot. “We were close to the 50km/h average speed once again, and that inevitably made the riders more tired for the final”. About fifteen men managed to go away before the côte de Venthon, the day’s first climb, before heading for the Col des Prés-Cormet de Roselend sequence. Always quite close to the leading riders, the peloton set a strong pace in that portion, so that only sixty men or so were left when the summit of Cormet de Roselend was reached. “We had a very good team performance, it should be noticed”, said Yvon. “At the summit, we had four guys in the first group, which was very interesting. David enjoyed a really good support today”. Thanks to Kevin Geniets, Bruno Armirail and Valentin Madouas’ help, David Gaudu could face the downhill in the very first positions and was then perfectly maintained in the front approaching the final, decisive climb of La Plagne (17 km at 7.5%).

“The team was very strong today,” said David. “There were still four of us at the bottom of the last climb. Kevin and Bruno, in particular, were very strong. Bruno even stayed with me until very far”. As the riders entered the last ten kilometers, the pace picked up significantly within the favourites group, the day’s breakaway was caught and the first attacks soon arrived. Richie Porte, Enric Mas, Sepp Kuss and Mark Padun were the first ones to take a step ahead. David Gaudu then made the choice to stay alongside the other GC contenders. “I decided not to go because I was afraid of blowing up and there were still teammates in order to pull behind,” he explained. “Then it was a bit of a cat and mouse game. I needed to attack 2-3 times to finally go, but it didn’t bother, as I like pace changes in the climbs. That’s my style”. As the leading quartet started to enjoy a strong lead, David Gaudu launched several attacks to chase them and eventually managed to get a gap with 3k to go. However, he never managed to bridge across the Lopez-Porte group, though he came back just meters from them. “I wasn’t far at one point, then we turned to the right, we got a headwind back and it got a little harder,” he explained. In front of him, Enric Mas sacrificed himself for Miguel Angel Lopez and the Frenchman therefore remained as a chaser until the top. “That’s the only little regret of the day, which is a good one nonetheless,” commented Yvon.

“We’ll need to stay strong”, David Gaudu

The Groupama-FDJ’s leader still fought hard to the top to take seventh place on the line, fifty-six seconds behind the surprising winner Mark Padun, and twenty-two behind the new yellow jersey Richie Porte. Thanks to this nice performance, David Gaudu also climbed to ninth overall and took the best young rider’s white jersey. “I’m happy, the shape is improving as the days go by,” he said. “The white jersey is a little extra, and it always gives morale to climb on the podium”. Before the final stage, which will feature tomorrow the Col des Aravis, the Col de la Colombière and the Col de Joux-Plane on barely 147 kilometers, David Gaudu is 1’12’’ behind the leader overall, but just around forty seconds away from the podium. “There is another nice stage tomorrow, and we know that everything can happen in the last stages of the Dauphiné,” concluded David. “We’ll need to stay strong and try to do the best possible stage”.

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