Thibaut Pinot fourth, David Gaudu tenth, in a group battling for third place in Bilbao behind the Yates brothers (Adam winner, Simon second): the Tour de France 2023 is off to a good start for the climbers from the Groupama-FDJ cycling Team! The two managed to master the difficulty of the Côte de Pike, which served as their first big test on the opening stage. The July series is off to a promising start.

From the moment they arrived at their base camp in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the riders of the Groupama-FDJ cycling Team have been eager to pin on their first bibs of the 2023 Tour de France. They were also fully aware of the exceptional nature of the first race weekend of this 110th edition, with spicy routes that inevitably forced the peloton to be extremely vigilant. The first act of the July show, a loop around Bilbao, offered five KOM climbs – the first as early as the thirteenth kilometre; the last, above all, just ten kilometres from the finish line. But before approaching the key ascent that was the Côte de Pike (2 kms at 10%), it was a traditional scenario that set the pace for most of the day. Lilian Calmejane (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Simon Guglielmi (Arkea-Samsic), Pascal Eenkhorn (Lotto-Dstny), Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X) and Valentin Ferron (TotalEnergies) formed the very first breakaway of these three weeks of competition, but never had more than a 2’30” advantage.

Fifty kilometres before the finish, the leading five were reviewed by the front of the peloton in which the riders from the Groupama-FDJ cycling Team had always remained in a good position, in the wheel of the very focused rookie Lars van den Berg. “The group played out today. The guys did what they had to do, and they did it well,” commented Philippe Mauduit. “We opted to give Valentin and Thibaut a bit of a break at the start of the race and to rely on the other five riders, who were at David’s service throughout the first part of the course”. “The team worked really well,” added David Gaudu. “We always stayed in the front”. The penultimate difficulty of the day, the Côte de Vivero, then arrived. The set tempo eliminated several candidates to stage victory. David Gaudu, assisted by Thibaut Pinot and Valentin Madouas, reached the summit in an excellent position. “It was at this point that David was able to call on their help and they could support him very well“, explained Philippe Mauduit.

“the strongest riders found themselves in front” D. Gaudu

On the descent of the Côte de Vivero, the first highlight of the Tour de France 2023 occurred: the crashes of Enric Mas (Movistar Team) and Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost). The former was forced to withdraw and the latter conceded more than fifteen minutes. Nevertheless, the peloton at the foot of the famous Côte de Pike was still well-packed. David Gaudu was in the right wheels at the start of the first slopes and then got into the fight, only to fall into a second group at the end of the climb, just behind a trio made up of Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates Team), Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Victor Lafay (Cofidis). Thibaut Pinot, meanwhile, picked off his rivals one by one to also take his place in the right wagon. “I wasn’t in a great position at the front,” he admitted. “I didn’t want to make an unnecessary effort, but if I had to do it again, I’d go about it differently, because I wasn’t able to make the jump until the track opened up.”

The Adam brothers (UAE Team Emirates) and Simon Yates (Jayco-Alula) put in a joint attack that would prove victorious for Adam a few kilometres further on in Bilbao. “I was so washed out at the top that I couldn’t follow them,” analysed David Gaudu. “They seized the opportunity”. Together in a group with the main Tour de France favourites on the descent to the finish of the day, David Gaudu and Thibaut Pinot had already achieved the essential for such a demanding first act: being in the game, having been able to follow the attacks in a breathtakingly explosive exercise. However, Thibaut didn’t want to settle for that, launching the sprint for third place and only being edged out in the end by Tadej Pogacar. He ended up fourth on the stage and also fourth overall, while David Gaudu was tenth. “It was a race of usury and the strongest riders found themselves in front at the end“, summed up the man from Bretagne.

“We’re off to a good start”, Philippe Mauduit

“It’s obviously a good first stage for us today, even if this morning we were dreaming of even better than fourth place,” explained Philippe Mauduit. “It’s great that Thibaut and David are with the best. We’re off to a good start in the Tour de France and it’s always important to get there”. Thibaut Pinot was in a similar vein: “It’s been a good day. An almost perfect day. We’d have liked to go for victory but the two Yates brothers were very strong up front. With my fourth place, we’ll have the car well-positioned behind the peloton tomorrow, which may not seem like much but it’s a good thing.” The second stage will see the riders travel from Vitoria-Gasteiz to San Sebastian, with the Jaizkibel (8.1km at 5.3%) sixteen kilometres from the finish of the Clasica San Sebastian’s flagship climb. “It’s possible that there will still be a big fight,” announced David Gaudu. “But sprinters like Mads Pedersen, or riders like Mathieu van der Poel, will undoubtedly want to get past the last difficulty.” For the Groupama-FDJ cycling Team, the primary objective will be to build on the success of the first stage. “If we succeed, our Tour de France will be off to a good start,” added Philippe Mauduit.

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