This year, the Tour de France celebrated July 14 on the Grand Colombier. A big fight was expected on the ramps of the Jura climb, but Quentin Pacher managed to have some fun as he led the race in the first kilometres of the climb, after attacking from the day’s breakaway. He was eventually caught by better climbers, and also by the yellow jersey group, from which David Gaudu was distanced just over two kilometres from the summit. Before the alpine weekend, the Breton remains ninth overall, but lost some more time to his main rivals. Thibaut Pinot is eleventh.
Although the terrain was quite different from the day before, namely flat rather than hilly in the first part of the race, another firework of attacks occurred on Friday at the start of stage 13 of the Tour of France. The break certainly didn’t establish itself halfway through the race, but some thirty kilometres still proved necessary. A group of twenty riders made a gap, and it included Quentin Pacher. “It was not the plan at all to be in front”, said the puncher from Libourne. “After crashing yesterday, the plan was to have a quieter day. However, I still wanted to give a hand to my teammates who wanted to be in front, by following the moves at the start of the race so that we were represented in front. In the end, I found myself in the move that went away.” However, the bunch immediately set a solid pace through Tadej Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates. “We quickly understood that they wanted to go for the stage victory, so they rode like crazy all day,” said David Gaudu. The breakaway was kept at two minutes for a long time, but in the second part of the race, the leading group managed to increase its advantage. The latter was about four minutes approaching the Grand Colombier (17.8 km at 7%), the last and almost unique obstacle of the day.
“It will remain etched in my memory”, Quentin Pacher
From the very first slopes, Quentin Pacher went all-in. “I told myself that I was going to try to try something, even if I did not know if it was going to work”, he explained. “My profile is not made for such long climbs, but it’s July 14th and you have to enjoy it! I went for it, and I told myself that once in front, with all the atmosphere, it would take me as far as possible”. The Frenchman therefore led the race fifteen seconds ahead of his first chasers for four kilometres, before he was caught by stronger riders. In particular, Michal Kwiatkowski, the future solo winner. “I’m not frustrated”, claimed Quentin. “To be alone at the head of the race, on the Tour de France, as a Frenchman, on July 14, in a climb with all this public, it’s amazing. These are moments that I had in mind when I was training as a kid. It will remain etched in my memory. Even if there is no victory at the end, it gives good motivation and good energy for the rest of the Tour. You need to go through these moments to create a positive dynamic, whether for me personally or for the team in general. We will keep trying until the end of this Tour de France and it will work out”.
“I am realistic, but we’re still motivated”, David Gaudu
On Friday, David Gaudu also did not manage to keep up with his GC rivals. The Breton was supported for most of the climb by Kevin Geniets, Valentin Madouas and Thibaut Pinot, but he was dropped from the small yellow jersey group when Adam Yates accelerated towards the summit. He fought until the line, taking 16th position, but lost more than thirty seconds to the podium contenders. “The pace was very fast on the climb”, explained David. “I didn’t blow up, but I had to let go at 2500 meters because I was just at my limit. I can’t do much more because I’m 100%, physically-speaking. I know I’m in good shape. Even today, I felt really good, I had good legs. The riders ahead in GC are just stronger and they climb too fast for us”. Although he retained his ninth place overall on Friday, he is now four minutes away from third place and more than a minute and a half away from sixth. “After being fourth in the Tour last year and second in Paris-Nice this year, I think it was not crazy to make the podium a goal”, added David. “That being said, the legs did the talking. Unfortunately, others are stronger, but we have started to fight for the overall, so we keep doing that, because we need to respect what the Tour is. I am not frustrated. I am rather realistic, but we’re still motivated, and we want to do well because the Tour is not over”.
Thibaut Pinot also lost time on Friday, as well as one place overall (11th), but like his leader, the Frenchman looks forward to the next opportunities. “I think we’ll see a very lively race this weekend, and some great things could happen,” he said. “From tomorrow, we will try to get in front, with a hard start of the stage. The next stages will be proper mountain stages, and there will be no excuses. We’ll just need to have the legs”. “We also want to win stages, and some of the upcoming ones suit us”, concluded David. “Anyway, Thibaut and the whole team will ride without pressure. We stay combative and motivated every morning”.