In the aftermath of the first rest day of the Tour de France, David Gaudu and the Groupama-FDJ did not spend a quiet day on Tuesday towards Issoire. Following an extremely intense start to the stage, the French climber found himself distanced in the first hour of racing. Thanks to the support of his teammates, however, he was able to limit his losses and then rejoin the yellow jersey peloton. He eventually finished the stage easily alongside the main favorites, but he did slip down to 9th overall after Pello Bilbao’s victory from the breakaway.
It was surely not a mountain stage, but with 3000 meters of elevation gain and almost no flat portion on the menu, stage 10 of the Tour was both anticipated and feared, even more so with the oppressive heat. The fight for the breakaway promised to be fierce, and from the first kilometres, the expectations proved to be right. From the Col de la Moreno, the peloton was shattered, and things got even worse on the second climb, at Guéry. While Thibaut Pinot was trying to follow the moves, David Gaudu found himself in trouble. “It always starts very fast the day after a rest day, so we expected it”, he said. “But sometimes, the body decides for you. I struggled at the start, the heat did not help, and I had a little heatstroke”. Immediately, almost all of the Groupama-FDJ riders gathered around their leader, first to limit the damage as the fight continued in the front. “There was the heat, but also the intensity”, explained Stefan Küng. “The race started from kilometre 0 and never really settled down, which made it even harder. Everyone was at the limit after the second climb, and I heard on the radio that David couldn’t follow. I sat up and waited for him.” “When your leader is in trouble, the more you hesitate, the more your cause is lost. We had no choice but to react fast”, confirmed Philippe Mauduit. “The gap was significant, but I was confident that our riders could manage the situation and I never doubted. I knew they were going to come back.”
“I could rely on an amazing team”, David Gaudu
The day’s breakaway finally formed after a long hour of racing and some forty kilometres on Tuesday. At this point, the peloton including David Gaudu were more than two minutes behind. “I could rely on an amazing team, which supported me all day long”, said David. “Without them, I think I would have finished far today. We had a tough time, but in those moments, you need to try to stay as calm as possible. Then, I also quickly felt much better. In the third climb, it was going well, the legs were unblocked”. “When you are at the limit of blowing up, you must not go any further, in the red zone”, added Philippe Mauduit. “The guys were smart enough not to go over this limit, and that’s also why they managed to come back”. After thirty kilometres of frantic chase, David Gaudu was finally brought back by his teammates to the main peloton. With more than a hundred kilometres to go, everything was then back to normal. “Everyone was in pain, but we fixed the situation”, said Stefan Küng. “Fortunately, we were able to return once it settled down, but it was surely a very hard day out”. Meanwhile, a fourteen-man breakaway managed to get enough of a lead to go for the day’s win. Pello Bilbao took it all as he got the win and moved up to fifth place overall. The yellow jersey peloton finished less than three minutes later, with David Gaudu, Thibaut Pinot, Stefan Küng and Valentin Madouas in there.
“We look forward to the next opportunities”, Stefan Küng
Eventually, the French leader got through the day ok, despite a slight fright. “On the one hand I thank the team, because they totally saved my day”, confided David. “On the other hand, I’m really sorry for them, because the whole team had carte blanche today, and they couldn’t go in front because of me”. “We can say that there was more fear than harm”, confessed Philippe. “Anyway, this day showed us how important it is to have a united team. The plan this morning was to have two or three riders in front. The race unfolded in a different way, and in such a situation, you have to be reasonable and change your plan along the way. We hang on to this general classification, which is not an easy objective. Some say we won’t succeed, but we are not definitively out of the game, so we keep fighting”. Now ninth overall, David Gaudu also remains confident despite a busy day. “It is not worrying for the future”, he said at the finish. “In 2021, I had a heat stroke on Mont Ventoux, and I had a great third week later. I still have a lot of motivation for the Alps”. However, Groupama-FDJ doesn’t only aim for the GC in this second half of the Tour. “We would have liked to fight in front on this stage, we had it in mind, but we did the domestique work and we now look forward to the next opportunities”, said Stefan. “There are some nice stages left, I hope we’ll take the right, victorious breakaways”, concluded Philippe.