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David Gaudu and his best chance yet at the Tour de France podium

Gaudu sets French hopes aflame after delivering biggest week of his life and stepping closer to Pogačar, Vingegaard at Paris-Nice.

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David Gaudu set French hopes ablaze in a breakout week of bombastic climbing last week at Paris-Nice.

The young French ace delivered the ride of his life on the roads into Nice when he bettered Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard, and proved one of the few able to live with Tadej Pogačar.

“We can’t have any regrets,” Gaudu said Sunday. “It’s a great result. You don’t have the chance to climb on the podium of Paris-Nice or a WordTour stage race every day. We would have signed for this result at the start.”

Second overall at the “Race to the Sun” sees Gaudu inch his way closer to the first French podium finish at the Tour de France since Romain Bardet took the second step in 2016.

“I think I passed a test this week,” Gaudu told L’Equipe. “I aligned the mental strength I gained at the Tour last year with my physique from 2021.”

Also read: Gaudu comes good in 2022 Tour de France 

Gaudu long hovered at the perimeter of the winner’s circle.

Fourth overall at last year’s Tour de France saw Groupama-FDJ’s latest team talisman come good after years of marquee stage wins but less luck stitching days together. In fact, second at Paris-Nice last week was Gaudu’s first WorldTour stage race podium since 2019, a stat that might surprise for one of the best pure climbers in the bunch.

Now with teammate and longtime French heartbreaker Pinot on the road to retirement, Gaudu has open road and full Groupama-FDJ climbing support at a push toward the top.

“We have to keep working, there is no choice,” sport director Philippe Mauduit said Sunday. “David was more than 13 minutes away from the top of the Tour last year, today he is one minute behind ‘Pogi.’ A long way has been covered, but it doesn’t stop there.”

‘Best of the rest’?

Gaudu saw some elite company on the Paris-Nice podium. (Photo: CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Gaudu is a dead-cert for this year’s Tour de France in what could be the best chance of his career so far at hitting the Paris podium.

A dearth of TT kilometers in a course laden with explosive hilly stages and gruelling summit finishes see the ASO serve Gaudu his perfect playground in the 2023 Grande Boucle.

If Vingegaard and Pogačar prove on a different dimension again this summer, Gaudu staked his claim this winter as future “best of the Tour de France rest.”

Richard Carapaz still hasn’t made his pro debut, Egan Bernal has missed weeks of racing, Enric Mas has been good but not great, and Ineos Grenadiers looks like it’s sending its best riders to the Giro d’Italia.

And fellow Frenchman Bardet? The DSM captain looked stuck in the gate so far in 2023.

Twice top-4 at the French Faun classics and more than 40 seconds ahead of Vingegaard in Nice sees Gaudu ride into spring with the wind at his back, and the burden of his home nation’s hopes on his shoulders.

“We know that we will not beat Pogacar or Vingegaard easily, but by dint of getting closer, we give ourselves chances,” Groupama FDJ team boss Marc Madiot said Sunday. “I’m not saying we’re going to win the Tour, but we want to be up there everywhere, in all the best races.”

No more waiting, Gaudu.

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