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Gaudu happy to keep learning from Pinot as right-hand man at Tour de France

David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ)
David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Groupama-FDJ's David Gaudu says that he'll be ready to once again act as his team leader Thibaut Pinot's right-hand man in the mountains at this year's Tour de France, but that the season will, hopefully, still be long, which means also concentrating on the races that come before and after the Tour – including the possible chance to lead the team at the Vuelta a España at the end of the season.

Twenty-three-year-old Gaudu rode strongly in support of Pinot at last year's race, when Pinot was poised in fifth place overall but was forced to pull out through injury just two days out from Paris. Now, another year older, wiser and probably stronger, Gaudu feels as though he can be even more useful to his more experienced teammate.

"We understand each other and talk a lot," Gaudu said of Pinot on the Groupama-FDJ website.

"With each metre that passes, we tell ourselves that we must not fail – that we must be there with the leader," he explained of the experience of guiding his teammate through the mountains at last year's Tour. "When we see that he's doing well, in our wheel, while the others are cracking, the adrenaline continues to rise and we want to give a little more. We experienced such an emotional Tour de France that we only want to remember the best parts of it."

Gaudu and Pinot both started their 2020 seasons together at the Tour de la Provence in February, where Pinot finished seventh overall and Gaudu was 10th. They then parted ways for the following races, with Gaudu heading to the United Arab Emirates in late February for the eventually shortened UAE Tour, due to the coronavirus pandemic, where he nevertheless finished fourth overall.

Although they've been riding together at Groupama-FDJ's recent training camp in the French Alps, Gaudu and Pinot are set to next come together for the Critérium du Dauphiné, in mid-August, in order to fine-tune their plans for the rescheduled Tour, which starts in Nice on August 29.

"Unlike a rider who is supposed to help him in the echelons, for example, my role is 'simpler', as things unfold naturally in the mountains," Gaudu said of his and Pinot's working relationship. "For him, I'm perhaps the most 'manageable' teammate.

"As for the sports side, the Dauphiné's course will be very tough, and the goal will obviously be to get a good overall result with Thibaut."

Although Gaudu admits that the pressure and tension will start to rise as the Tour gets closer, for now he's happy to just get back to racing and to try to build up his racing form.

"Above all, we just want to get a bib number back on pretty quickly, and it is about to happen," Gaudu said, with him starting at the Vuelta a Burgos on Tuesday. "The pressure of the Tour will start to quietly come afterwards, especially during the Dauphiné.

"That being said, we obviously all know what lies ahead, and what we need to do for the Tour. We all have last year's images in mind. We want to repeat the same thing, or almost," he said, referring to Pinot's race-ending thigh injury.

For now, Gaudu says, he's happy to be riding in Pinot's service and learning about leadership as he goes. However, Gaudu admitted that he would like his own opportunity at a Grand Tour in the future, and that could come as soon as this year's rescheduled Vuelta a España in late October.

If he rides the Vuelta, it will mean Gaudu missing the Ardennes Classics – which have been rescheduled to fall during the Spanish Grand Tour – for the first time in his four-year career, but Gaudu believes it's a price worth paying.

"I mostly feel excited about being at the start of a second Grand Tour this year," he said. "I can't wait to see how it turns out, and how I can handle it. Doing two Grand Tours in the same season is not do-able every year.

"That being said, the Vuelta is still a long way off. We haven't even talked about it in depth yet," Gaudu added. "The main focus is the Tour de France."