Although the first week of the Tour could ruin everyone’s hopes, the first real test for the GC leaders was this Friday, on the now famous Super Planche des Belles Filles. At the top of this climb, dear to Thibaut Pinot, his teammate David Gaudu lived up to expectations and once again fought with the best until the last metres. Perfectly supported in the final, the French rider gave his all on the gravel section and on the last steep slopes to take a superb sixth place in stage 7. Doing so, he moved up to fifth place overall, 1’31 behind the yellow jersey.
“We are where we wanted to be”, Marc Madiot
One man was looking forward to this stage 7 more than any other. Towards HIS Planche des Belles Filles, featuring the last “Super” section, Thibaut Pinot was the obvious man of the day. Ten years to the day after his first win in the Tour de France, which he obtained the day after the very first visit of the Tour on the same Planche, the French climber was for sure at the centre of the attention. From the start in Tomblaine, and during the first hour of racing, he was therefore right up there in the first part of the bunch, following the attacks. “His mission was getting into the big moves”, said Marc Madiot. “If a group of twenty riders was going, he had to go with them, but there were not such moves”. Despite numerous efforts, sometimes supported by his teammates, the climber from Melisey wasn’t able to get into the breakaway of eleven rider that made a gap after fifty kilometres. “It was really hard for the climbers to join the break at the start, and in the end, there were almost only non-climbers up front”, said Thibaut. “It would have been nice to have him in the breakaway but we knew it would be difficult with so many attempts”, Philippe added. “Also, besides our desire to win stages, the goal remains to help David secure a good GC”. The tactics therefore entirely refocused on the young man from Brittany when the race was settled. The latter took it quite easy the whole stage while the yellow jersey Tadej Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates didn’t give much space to the day’s fugitives.
After having covered 160 kilometres at a high speed, the last men standing from the leading group had only a 1-30 lead starting the Super Planche des Belles Filles (7km at 8,5%). Thanks to an excellent pull from Stefan Küng at the top of the penultimate hill, David Gaudu was able to tackle the descent in a good position and to enter the final climb the right way. Kevin Geniets, Valentin Madouas, Thibaut Pinot and Michael Storer moved up alongside him on the very first slopes. Then, the selection started from the back. “Antoine and Olivier did a great job in the first part of the stage, then Stefan, Kevin, Val and finally Michael perfectly took over”, said Philippe. The Australian also impressed, ending up being the last teammate of David Gaudu as the yellow jersey group was reduced to just twenty men before the flamme rouge. “The team is going strong, Michael Storer was with David until the last kilometre”, Marc was pleased to say. “We had saved him for these finishes, and he’s now up there, which is good”. In the final, the yellow jersey Pogacar took control himself and David Gaudu followed the wheels until the last three hundred meters. He then lost some ground but fought hard until the line to take sixth place, nineteen seconds behind the winner. Pogacar, again. “I’m satisfied, we are where we wanted to be”, said Marc. “Two riders looked stronger in the last kilometre, but behind them, we are at the same level as the others. It’s very interesting”. “David did a great climb,” added Philippe. “He was where we expected him to be. We can see that he is clearly among the best in this kind of finish. We shouldn’t get too enthusiastic already, we should keep our feet on the ground, but the guys again did the stage we expected of them, and we are confident”.
“The Tour has only just begun”, David Gaudu
“Eventually, it’s a good day”, David commented later. “We are still on track for the goal we set ourselves, about 20 seconds off the podium. I had good feelings, not the best ever, but they were ok. The team did a great job, and everyone was there. To have the public behind you, hear it shouting “Allez Thibaut, Allez David”, that’s really nice. I am fifth among the favourites, but I must stay focused. The Tour has only just begun, this was only the first test. We are very happy with the start of the Tour, but the hardest part is coming, and everything can still happen”. Thanks to his excellent performance today, David Gaudu also moved up in the general classification. After one week of racing, he is now fifth overall, 1’31 behind the yellow jersey. As for Thibaut Pinot (31st), he wasn’t able to play with the best on Friday. This didn’t stop the crowd from giving him a very warm welcome. “The atmosphere was magical, as always”, said the man from the area. “The public was up to the task. I wasn’t, it’s a shame, but I want to thank them for their support. It was another great moment for me. I am surely disappointed as I always hope for better, but I knew that I was not yet at 100%. I still need a few days. I also spent a lot of energy in the first hour and I paid for it in the final. However, the most important thing is that David did a good climb, he is still in the mix, so everything is going well for us”. “Thibaut hasn’t found his complete form yet, which is normal after the Covid, but I think that we will see a great Pinot in the Alps and in the Pyrenees”, concluded Marc.