Groupama-FDJ's David Gaudu took a well-earned sixth place at what was only his second participation at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, only just missing out on a podium spot after finding himself in the lead group on the final climb of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons.
Gaudu was unable to follow winner Jakob Fuglsang's (Astana) decisive move over the top of the climb, nor runner-up Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), but was in the mix in the final sprint for third place, missing out to Formolo's Bora teammate Max Schachmann, Mitchelton-Scott's Adam Yates and Michael Woods (EF Education First).
It was an illustrious group to finish as part of, and Gaudu was happy with his own performance, and content to have left everything out on the road.
"When you're sprinting and you're having to stay in the saddle, it's because you've given it everything you've got," Gaudu said on his team's Twitter page.
"The others were stronger than me, and so I'm happy with sixth place. It was a day of highs and lows for me: I was close to having hypothermia around 20km into the race, and told myself that it was going to be very difficult to even finish the race.
"But I knuckled down, and there were still three of us from the team on La Roche-aux-Faucons, and I was feeling better, having got the hardest part of the race out of the way."
As to whether he could one day make the podium – or perhaps even win Liège – he replied: "Yes – it could be an objective. A climber can do well on this course, as Jakob Fuglsang showed today."
Groupama-FDJ directeur sportif Franck Pineau was full of praise for his young charge after what had been a tough day, with the race having been held in such cold and wet conditions.
"If you'd told me this morning that we were going to get sixth… It's the team's best-ever finish at Liège," he said. "I'm extremely proud of our young riders. It was raining all the way to Bastogne, and rained again later on, and it just kept getting colder.
"David's only a slight rider, and so I was worried. We kept feeding him pâtes de fruit [fruit jelly bars] directly, as he'd missed his feed bag, and kept shouting at him and encouraging him, and he was able to achieve this amazing result," said Pineau.
"Achieving sixth place at Liège means that I'm very, very happy," team manager Marc Madiot added. "Did David surprise me? Yes and no. I already knew how talented he was.
"He's a strong-willed rider. He used his head, and was able to react to the situation very quickly. It was fantastic," Madiot said of Gaudu's result, which, according to his team, made him the youngest rider to finish in the top 10 at the race since a 22-year-old Steven Rooks won it in 1983.
Long touted as France's next big thing – despite only being in his third full pro season – Gaudu's results so far this season include sixth overall at the Tour de La Provence in February and third overall at the UAE Tour in March, winning the overall youth classifications at both events.
Gaudu will start this week's Tour de Romandie, where he could do very well on the back of Sunday's result, and he's slated to make his second Tour de France start in July, having finished 34th overall on his debut at La Grande Boucle last year.
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