In the climb of Leysin, the Tour de Romandie’s GC contenders fought their last battle on Saturday. After a fast and grueling fourth stage, everything finally settled in the last five kilometres. Slightly dropped when the action began, David Gaudu and Lenny Martinez made a strong finish to take ninth and twelfth respectively at the top, some forty seconds behind the winner Richard Carapaz. The youngest one then managed to hold on to the overall top-10 (8th), while the Breton gained seventeen places (14th). A sprint might conclude the race on Sunday.

In a “queen stage” featuring almost 3,500 meters of elevation gain this Saturday, the most difficult climb on the riders’ menu was located after barely thirty kilometres. And that’s exactly where the real business started. While a six-man break was in the front with a four-minute gap at the bottom of the Ovronnaz climb (9km at 9.7%), the peloton soon exploded. “Ineos Grenadiers decided to make the race hard today to turn the GC around,” explained Jussi Veikkanen. “They accelerated from the first classified climb, and when we got back on the valley after fifty kilometres of racing, there were only around thirty riders left in the peloton. That says a lot about today’s speed. We had David and Lenny in the front, then Rudy came back with a small group a bit later.” In the lead, the breakaway was reformed with Nelson Oliveira, Bart Lemmen, Dorian Godon, Clément Berthet and Raul Garcia Pierna but never got a lead of more than two minutes. Sixty kilometres from the finish, Ineos Grenadiers set the tempo again on the climb of Rives then on that of Giettes, coming back just a minute away from the last fugitive, Clément Berthet. The bunch then took on a valley of about twenty kilometres leading to the day’s last climb towards Leysin (14 km at 6%).

“David pushed me to my limits”, Lenny Martinez

At the bottom, the lone leader still had a minute gap, and it was only halfway up the climb that the peloton made a big push. Berthet was caught five kilometres from the summit and the final battle immediately opened up through Egan Bernal. What remained of the peloton went into pieces, and the Groupama-FDJ duo first struggled to cope with the high pace. “We knew it was going to start at that point,” explained David Gaudu. “I had already done this climb in 2018. I knew it was going to be hard at that moment. I made sure to always keep Lenny not too far from me to try to boost him.” We understood each other without the need to speak to each other,” Lenny added. “He was very strong, so he tried to help me by pushing me to my limits. My sole objective was to stay in his wheel.” The duo therefore fought together in a third chasing group, while Richard Carapaz went on to win the stage. “David was very strong today,” Jussi emphasized again. “He brought great support to Lenny, who had a slightly more complicated day. He supported him until the end, especially in the last kilometres when Ayuso blew out.” “I knew there was a flatter portion and we managed to come back at that time to take advantage of UAE teammates’ work before trying to finish strong,” David added. “We managed our effort well, and above all we didn’t give up.”

“I’ll be able to finish on a decent note”, David Gaudu

The French duo therefore returned in the mix, and David Gaudu eventually took ninth place on the line 41 seconds behind Carapaz, Lenny Martinez securing twelfth place 46 seconds back. “It was a war of attrition,” said the young man. “We managed well on the last climb. It was a real mountain stage. I went deep today, but like everyone else I think. It was a day for the strong men”. “Lenny did a great climb considering the day we had,” added David. “I think we can’t have any regrets today, we gave everything. I’m happy to have been able to support him and to still be there in the final. Eventually, we don’t end up so far from the other favorites. Given the circumstances, and considering that I’m far from being 100%, it’s pretty good. I will be able to finish the race on a decent note tomorrow. There have been ups and downs during this Tour de Romandie, but that’s normal.”They had a smile on their face when they got back to the bus, I think they did what they had to do,” Jussi added. “This allowed Lenny to limit his losses overall, and David found his good legs again today after his hard day yesterday. It’s good”.

In GC, Lenny Martinez now sits in eighth position while David Gaudu is fourteenth on Saturday evening. “I wanted to keep the top-5, maybe even improve it, but I’m still happy not to lose the top-10,” said Lenny. “I gave everything, and I have no regrets.” “It’s a satisfying day,” Jussi concluded. “We were hoping for an overall podium, we didn’t have the legs for it today, but we are still up there. Sunday’s stage looks simple on paper, but it is not sure that it will finish in a sprint. We still have a big day to go, and we will have to remain careful around Lenny and David.”

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