After a great support from his teammates in the seventh stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, the first one in the Alps, David Gaudu fought hard against the very best on Saturday. In the final climb, only three men proved stronger than him in the last few hundred metres. He eventually took seventh, forty seconds behind the winner Carlos Verona. The French climber therefore climbed to sixth place overall, 1’40 behind the new yellow jersey Primoz Roglic, but only sixteen seconds from the podium. Last stage tomorrow towards the Plateau de Salaison.
“It was awesome to put the pressure on the Croix de Fer”, Michael Storer
The climbers were waiting for this since last Sunday. The great alpine weekend was finally about to begin, with a start from Saint-Chaffrey and quite an appetizer! The legendary Col du Galibier was indeed set to launch stage 7 of the Critérium du Dauphiné, made of just 134 kilometres. As everyone expected, the race was tough from the start because of the fight for the breakaway, which Groupama-FDJ gladly joined. Many attacks occurred before several groups of riders managed to get a gap, one by one. Bruno Armirail managed to enter one of them, returning on the attack following his day up front yesterday towards Gap. After a solid effort in the first hour of racing, the time trial specialist even took sixth position at the top of Galibier before eventually making it into a breakaway of nineteen riders. However, the latter never enjoyed a significant advantage because of a few dangerous men being there. At the bottom of the second climb of the day, the Col de la Croix de Fer (29 km at 5%), the gap for Bruno Armirail and his breakaway companions was less than three minutes. After a steady pace at first, the peloton eventually increased the tempo in the last third of the climb, and the Groupama-FDJ cycling team itself took control about five kilometres from the top.
Olivier Le Gac, Valentin Madouas and Kevin Geniets were the first to pull. “It was a nice mountain stage, and everyone needed to know where they were after the first five days where everything went pretty well,” said Thierry Bricaud. “We wanted to know how the legs in the mountains were. We are at the Dauphiné to get a result but also to work for the future. This was the opportunity to do so.” “We took risks”, added David. “If we never do, we won’t ever know. I was confident after my victory. We wanted to do a nice race, and the team was going strong. So, we decided to take the race in hand and make it hard. We risked bringing a large group to the finish if we didn’t. We tried to destabilize the Jumbo-Visma a bit”. “It was great for us to put the pressure on the Croix de Fer today,” added Michael Storer. “Not many teams had the riders strong enough to do something”. The work of the domestiques made it possible to reduce the peloton to just thirty riders or so, and to drop the yellow jersey Wout van Aert. At the top, only fifteen riders were still part of the “bunch”, including David Gaudu and Michael Storer. They also got back to Bruno Armirail just before the downhill. “He was not in a great day yesterday, but he could not be in front by chance today”, pointed out Thierry. “He was useful in the end, as he could finish the work that the others had done a little before”.
“We can be proud”, David Gaudu
The Frenchman then led the favourites group for part of the descent, before pulling approaching the final climb in Vaujany (6 km at 7%), which the “peloton” tackled 1’30 behind Carlos Verona. Bruno Armirail kept on going until the last four kilometres before handing over to Michael Storer, who set a hard pace for another kilometre or so. Then, the fight between the main contenders started. David Gaudu put on a great effort to follow a first attack from Jonas Vingegaard, like six other competitors, but the young man was unable to resist Primoz Roglic’s attack about 1,500 meters from the line. The French climber fought hard in the chase, and eventually crossed the line in seventh position, twenty-seven seconds behind the Slovenian. “I felt pretty good, and it came down to the legs in the final”, said David. “I gave everything when Roglic went, but I missed some 200 meters at the top. It is not that bad for a first stage race. It’s quite promising for the future. The team did a great job, and I thank them for it. It is a pity I could not finish it off, but I think we did what we had to do. We were still three at the bottom of the last climb, we had Bruno in the breakaway. In the bunch, the guys did a great job. Olivier, who is not a climber initially, dropped when there were only 40 guys left. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We can be proud of what we did today. To influence a WorldTour race as a team is very nice”.
“We tried to put things in place”, added Thierry. “There’s still a bit of work to do, but we’re heading in the right direction. There are also some competitors, and we must remember that everyone is coming back from training camp, that we need to cope with all that and that the Tour is still a bit far away. We are on schedule for July, and that’s very interesting”. On the eve of the grand finale, which will notably include the Col de la Colombière and the Plateau de Salaison on Sunday, David Gaudu has progressed to sixth place overall, 1’40 behind Primoz Roglic but only sixteen seconds from the podium. “Tomorrow is another day, with another difficult and different climb”, slipped David. “We won’t give up, and we’ll try to do nice things”. “It will be a stage almost identical to that of today”, concluded Thierry. “We won’t go as high in terms of altitude, but it will be as hard, or even more. It is a typical tricky stage to complete the Dauphiné. There can be surprises”. “It was great to work like this as a team today, and why not do it again tomorrow”, completed Bruno. “Personally, I was doing much better today, and I hope that I will improve further by tomorrow. We will give everything. David is not far from the podium, so we would like to make him stand there!”