One had to fight his way up front this Saturday on the Tour de France, as pretty much everyone wanted to be in the day’s breakaway. As a result, the latter only formed halfway through this stage 14, and Valentin Madouas managed to bridge across despite a late attack. The young Frenchman did not have enough energy towards the end to fight for the stage win, taking twelfth on the line, but he still displayed the right spirit.

“My legs felt a bit heavy”, Valentin Madouas

It wasn’t properly written on the fourteen stage’s profile that the breakaway would win, but it was just like it. On Saturday, the day’s outcome left no doubt to the Tour’s followers, as the victory could only go to the breakaway between Carcassonne and Quillan, on what was a perfect hilly route. So what was supposed to happen happened. A furious race lasted for over 90 kilometers, during which half the peloton might have given it a go… “Of course, there was a slight tailwind, but there was just a hard fight all day”, insisted Thierry Bricaud. “It was difficult for us. With four riders left, we had to remain calm. Stefan and Valentin had the opportunity to follow the moves because we knew the breakaway would make it to the end. Then, approaching the climbs, we realized that David could also get involved. He tried, but eventually it was Valentin who made it after more than two hours of racing”. The first break went in the day’s most difficult climb, the Col de Montségur (4km at 8%). Valentin Madouas attacked a few minutes later. “It was so unpredictable and difficult to break away,” said the young man. “It was not clear when the right move was going to establish itself. When the first group went, there were only 30-40 guys left in the bunch. The race was crazy”.

With Elie Gesbert (Arkéa-Samsic) at first, then also together with Pierre Rolland and Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels), the young rider from Brittany used the Col de la Croix des Morts as a launch pad. He then joined in the chase to catch the first group, more than a minute in front. “The breakaway took a long time to go, and when we realized it was the right one, Valentin went for it and he did well,” added Thierry. “They kept on fighting and managed to bridge across, although they left a lot of energy on the road. That energy may have been missing in the final.” As they joined the leading group, it was already time for the penultimate climb, but Bauke Mollema waited for the downhill to go solo and build his stage win. Within the chasing group, already 1’30 back at the bottom of the last climb, Valentin Madouas did take some turns but it was already too late. No one proved able to catch the Dutchman towards Quillan and the rider of the Groupama-FDJ logically dropped back in the last climb. “We tried to recover after we joined the leading group, but the stage was a bit short,” he said with a smile. “My legs felt a bit heavy in the final, and I expected that given all the efforts I made at the start of the race. Of course I’m a bit disappointed, because you always want to play for victory when you are in front. But I tried a lot in the beginning, maybe too much. Unfortunately it didn’t work out today, but we’ll try again”.

“They won’t stop fighting”, Thierry Bricaud

At the finish, Valentin Madouas took ‘only’ twelfth place, but clearly fought his way throughout the whole stage. “You can’t just give up on the Tour, because if you wait until the next day, you sometimes end up waiting for three weeks”, continued Thierry. “We need to underline the spirit within the team. We are down to four guys, it’s true, but two breakaways have made it to the end in the last three days, and we were up there each time. It shows the guys’ motivation, and that’s very important. We will keep on trying. They won’t stop fighting; they really want that stage win. Stefan tried, Valentin also, and we know that we’ll get more opportunities in the Pyrenees”. It starts this Sunday with a first mountain stage featuring climbs with quite different gradients. “I can’t wait to be tomorrow,” Valentin said at the finish line. “David too. We’ll continue to try to be in front. There are some great things to go for and I hope we can achieve a good performance”. “If the breakaway goes in a climb, it will be easier for the real climbers, and therefore for David,” concluded Thierry. “Before getting to the first pass, however, we’ll need to manage an hour of racing and we know that anything can happen on the Tour”.

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