For his return to racing, a bit less than a month after Paris-Nice, David Gaudu experienced a good day this Monday on stage 1 of the Tour of the Basque Country. Always surrounded by his teammates, the Groupama-FDJ leader finished safely within the peloton (25th), while Ethan Hayter won the sprint. Quentin Pacher finished two ranks ahead of his mate, and a slightly hillier stage is looming on Tuesday.

Only one categorized climb was on the menu for the opening stage of the Tour of the Basque Country, and a sprint was therefore expected in Labastida after 165 kilometres. However, the hilly terrain brought the day’s total elevation gain to 2500 meters, which made for an active start on the other side of the Pyrenees. As for the race itself, the scenario was crystal clear to say the least. Jon Barrenetxea (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Txomin Juaristi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Cristian Rodriguez (Arkéa-Samsic) broke away after about ten kilometres and remained in the lead of the race for about one hundred and twenty kilometres. In the meantime, the Groupama-FDJ team stayed alongside David Gaudu throughout the day. “Although we have a 100% renewed team compared to Paris-Nice and we have a lot of riders who have never raced together, I think they found each other quite well for a first day”, said Philippe Mauduit. “They worked well, everyone did what was expected of him. We always stayed in the top positions to avoid any problems, but also to get used to racing with a leader, especially for the youngest. Lars returns after a month’s absence, Romain is competing in his first very high-level stage race, and they have to fit into the group. That’s what they managed to do today.”

“A rather satisfying first day”, Philippe Mauduit

Until twenty kilometres from the finish, and the approach of the second and last intermediate sprint, Matthieu Ladagnous led the Groupama-FDJ train at the head of the pack. Subsequently, Bruno Armirail took over at the front of the bunch until the last five kilometres. “We missed out a bit on the bonus sprint then on the final sprint, which was a bit chaotic, but there are no deep regrets”, added Philippe. “Quentin got a little boxed in before the last kilometre, which means he couldn’t find a space to anticipate before the final. He could have aimed for a good placement as he already did in the past, but he will have other opportunities. It is still a rather satisfying first day on this Tour of the Basque Country”. After a very fast final despite a few slopes, Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) took advantage of his excellent positioning to claim victory. Quentin Pacher (23rd) and David Gaudu (25th) finished almost together. The fast men could have another shot tomorrow in Leitza. “The second part of the stage will be hillier, and the last climb of almost fourteen kilometres will be hard for some, even if the average slope is 4%”, warned Philippe. “There will be a big battle to be in a good position at the top, located just five kilometres from the finish. So, we can expect a fast pace on this climb.”

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