Although Saturday’s disappointment was still fresh this morning, the Groupama fiercely returned to battle on Sunday in the second Pyrenean stage of the Tour de France. On the eve of the first rest day, the team proved to be very active in a very fast start. Almost all riders tried their luck, Thibaut Pinot included, but David Gaudu and Sébastien Reichenbach were eventually the ones who went up front. However, as the bunch never gave a large margin, the rider from Brittany and the Swiss Champion were unable to have a role in the final. The team anyway ended this first week of the Tour in the same way they will approach the other two: on the attack.
“Thibaut has a winner temperament”, Thierry Bricaud
After the huge disappointment for Thibaut Pinot and the team on stage 8 of the Tour de France on Saturday, it was necessary to re-evaluate things within the Groupama-FDJ. The general classification now being out of reach, all the eyes then turned to stage victories. As fresh as the pain was, the new goal was topical as from today with the second Pyrenean stage between Pau and Laruns, through the Col de Hourcère and with the Col de Marie Blanque as a final climb. From the first few minutes, it was clear that Marc Madiot’s riders were back in the game. We first saw Stefan Küng accelerating with David Gaudu in his wheel before Valentin Madouas joined the fight as well. The two riders from Brittany tried hard but the much-coveted breakaway could not form before the bottom of the Col de la Hourcère, located after more than 55 kilometers. Then, Sébastien Reichenbach and a revengeful Thibaut Pinot also joined the battle.
“The general watchword was to get going again,” said Thierry Bricaud. “Everyone was involved in the race, and it’s not easy to do the mental switch when you’ve just spent eight days racing for the overall. The habits and the way of riding are radically different. The first day after a disappointment like the one we experienced yesterday is never easy either. Despite all this, everyone reacted very, very well and it was important to get back on track.” Although he remained conservative for the first fifty rather flat kilometers, Thibaut did not hesitate to take part in the collective effort from the first slopes of the Col de Hourcère. “We had rather asked Thibaut to stay calm for a few days in order to recover well, but he has a winner temperament,” added Thierry. “He lives with what happened to him yesterday but he does not accept it. We have seen it today. He has a champion’s nature and he wants to quickly get back into a positive situation. It was still difficult, but the motivation was there. The pain hasn’t gone away since yesterday, and when things get a little better he tries because he just can’t accept defeat. He knows he would come up short when the big fight would start, but he regains confidence and we must still be a little patient”.
“Everyone is motivated”, Thierry Bricaud
If Thibaut Pinot did not ultimately make it to the breakaway, or to the chasing group, he still participated in forming the latter with Sébastien Reichenbach. It was then David Gaudu who made the jump from the bunch to join the Swiss rider up front. Two men from Groupama-FDJ thus found themselves in the chase, but the peloton never let it go. “They never took too much time, it wasn’t cooperating very well, and Hirschi quickly made big gaps,” added Thierry. “Beyond that, what’s more important is the group spirit. Valentin also tried a lot. The guys tried hard and we could see that we still had riders motivated and in shape”. The attempt of the Swiss champion and the French climber was finally ended before the last forty kilometers, while Marc Hirschi got caught inside the last two kilometers by the favourites. Tadej Pogacar eventually won the sprint from a group of five and Primoz Roglic took the yellow jersey away from Adam Yates. It is how the first week of the Tour de France concluded on Sunday, and the riders will get back in business on Tuesday for an “oceanic” stage between the Ile d’Oléron and the Ile de Ré.
“The rest day tomorrow will do us good, and we will take advantage of it to target our stages with the riders”, concluded Thierry Bricaud. “The goal will be to get a victory as quickly as possible. If we manage to net one, we will hunt for more, but the first goal is to get a win in the next two weeks. It’s never easy to win on the Tour, but everyone is motivated so we’ll give it a try. We all hope to get Thibaut back at his best by the end of the Tour – he’s the first to hope so -, but we are not going to curb the others. Quite the opposite. David is ambitious, Valentin as well… They all want to do well and we will do everything we can to get a win, no matter who does it!”