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There was a memorable image at the stage 14 finish of the Tour de France above Mende: David Gaudu throwing his bike at the line, eking out every advantage, having shot past rivals Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates in the climb’s last 500 meters.
“I can be really satisfied with that stage. There were only the two strongest riders, Pogačar and Vingegaard, ahead of me,” he said afterwards.
“I really let loose and when I see the impact made, that gives me hunger and confidence. I can’t wait to be in the Pyrenees.”
It’s been a rollercoaster in the mountains for the Groupama-FDJ captain so far. On stage 11, he sagely dropped back on the Galibier, surrounded by three helpers, and ended up tearing past several rivals on the Col du Granon, ultimately finishing fifth. It was a well-judged effort.
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However, he referred to “a lack of confidence” after losing 54 seconds to Pogačar, Vingegaard and Thomas on Alpe d’Huez the following day. “Sometimes mentally, there are barriers in the way, so I hope I’ve broken them,” he told journalists at Mende.
Gaudu currently sits eighth overall, 4:24 down on race leader Jonas Vingegaard, on the same time as Louis Meintjes. At his rest day press conference Monday, he spoke of his aims for the Pyrenees.
“My goal is try to take back time to those in front of me in the general classification,” he said. “Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s wiser to not attack: when you you have the UAE or Jumbo train in front, you’re already all out sitting in the wheels and you can’t go for it. We’ll take opportunities if we see them, in any case.”
Punchy Pyrenees pleasing to Gaudu
While the Alps have a special place in his heart, having done many holidays there, the Pyrenees suit his capacities better. “They’re steep, a little bit shorter. They suit my characteristics as a grimpeur-puncheur better, unlike the long, gradual climbs in the Alps where you have to ride a bigger gear.”
He expects the abandon of Jumbo-Visma pairing Primož Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk to have a big influence on the race. “I think it can change a lot of things because they were two big riders in the mountains who could ride strongly, we already saw that in the Alps on the Télégraphe and the Galibier.”
With the Dutch team two climbers down, Gaudu anticipates “very explosive moves from Pogačar, who will do everything he can to bring the fight to Jumbo.”
Meanwhile, with 2:02 between second and eighth place overall, the important differences could be made mentally. “You could find yourself 20 seconds off the others, and it’s in the head where it could be hardest,” he said. “It’s very tough when the legs don’t have an answer anymore and your mind is playing with you.”
The 25-year-old spoke of a stage win and podium finish as his dream scenario before the Tour and that’s still within reach. But there’s also the matter of zero French stage wins so far. What are the reasons behind it?
“You have to be at 100 percent,” he said. “Cycling has evolved so much and internationalized, it’s really hard now. We see that in our team too: it’s French but we have Storer, Küng, Geniets [and Duchesne] who aren’t French.
“And finally, there are fewer and fewer French racers, the percentage in the bunch is falling.”
“You always have to believe,” he concluded. “We saw Benjamin Thomas go within 500 meters yesterday.”
If he keeps the faith and the good legs, the Breton might be the one to break the French dry spell in his preferred mountain range.