The last push to the Tour de France is officially on. On Sunday, the Critérium du Dauphiné started with a quite short but hilly stage around Chambon-sur-Lac. Although the day mainly came down to a battle between the peloton and the breakaway, before the victory of Christophe Laporte, only forty men or so finished in the first group. Well supported by his teammates all day, David Gaudu safely crossed the line in the front, before another tricky stage on Monday.

In the Puy-de-Dôme area, the opening day could hardly be flat on Sunday, to launch the Critérium du Dauphiné. Therefore, the peloton already had to climb 2700 metres all around Chambon-sur-Lac, over a little less than 160 kilometres, to get the week of racing started. The hilly terrain was also a perfect opportunity for the breakaway, especially on day one. In the end, it took about fifteen kilometres for the day’s breakaway to establish itself with Dorian Godon (AG2R-Citroën), Rune Herregodts (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Brent Van Moer (Lotto-Dstny), Fabio Van Den Bossche (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Donavan Grondin (Arkéa-Samsic). Although the peloton did not want to take any risks and kept the quintet around two minutes for a long time, it however struggled to increase the pace when entering the final circuit. When reaching for the first time the summit of the Côte du Rocher de l’Aigle, concluding a long ascent, the breakaway even brought its lead to three minutes for the first time of the day. There were then sixty kilometres left to go, and the rain briefly came into play before the chase really started.

“The last hour of racing was very intense”, Kevin Geniets

In the second lap, the gap hugely reduced, and it even passed under the minute before starting the last lap. After a final turn from Olivier Le Gac at the bottom of the last climb, David Gaudu still had Kevin Geniets, Valentin Madouas and Lenny Martinez alongside him in a small peloton. “The final was hard, it went really fast in the last lap”, said the man from Luxembourg. “It was very nervous because of the wet roads. We really had to be careful and be positioned on the last descent. There were then a few accelerations and a small uphill section in the last three kilometres. In the end, the last hour of racing was very intense physically but also mentally”. Even more so since the chase lasted until the last moments as Rune Herregodts was still in the lead at the flamme rouge. The Belgian was eventually caught only ten meters from the line, and Christophe Laporte won from a 40-man peloton. “We managed to stay in front with David and not suffer any splits,” said Kevin. “So, it’s a pretty positive day for us.” “It was the stage we expected, with a quite difficult final circuit, which was made even more difficult by the rain”, added Philippe Mauduit. “There are a few gaps on the last lap, but just a few favorites lost time, and those aren’t big gaps. This stage will count for sure, but everything remains to be done”.

Twenty-third of the stage, David Gaudu and his teammates will also aim to have a safe finish towards La Chaise-Dieu on Monday.

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