David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) secured his first WorldTour victory of the season after claiming the finale stage 6 at Itzulia Basque Country in Arrate on Saturday. The Frenchman said that the win gave him confidence ahead of his targets at the Ardennes Classics.
“It was insane. It was an incredible day. I hadn’t experienced any other like it before,” Gaudu said, who won 1.Pro Faun-Ardèche Classic in February.
“I was always calm and confident. I didn’t think too much, I raced the way I wanted to and it paid off. I especially want to remember how I won. It came down to the legs the whole day, from the beginning to the end, and I came away with the win. Maybe this is what makes me happy the most.”
Gaudu formed part of the select small group that split off the front of a reduced main field on the descent off of the Elosua-Gorla with 70km to go. Overnight leader Brandon McNulty and Tadej Pogačar (both UAE Team Emirates) hesitated and they missed the move after being caught too far back.
“At the briefing, we made it clear that the race could be played as much in the downhills as in the climbs,” said Groupama-FDJ director Franck Pineau. “Like all week, it was necessary to be well-positioned at the top of the climbs. We were sure that some would try to make the racer harder there. Luckily, David has great skills, but he still needed to be in a good position.”
The gap between the leaders and the chase group that included Pogačar grew through the valley roads and onto the penultimate climb. Roglič attacked and only Gaudu and Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) could follow. “When the three of us got away, I realized I might be one of the strongest in the day," Gaudu said.
On the final Usartza climb, Gaudu was the first to attack and he permanently distanced Carthy, but Roglič, who was racing for the overall classification, was able to reconnect with the Frenchman further up the ascent.
“Roglic told me he didn’t care about the stage," Gaudu said. “I knew that if I took him to the finish in the last climb, he would let me [have] the victory. But I needed to get rid of Carthy first. I attacked, and when I saw he was dropped, I gave it my all. I was going flat-out! Franck [Pineau] was yelling on the radio, the Basques were also shouting on the side of the road. My legs didn’t even hurt anymore! I was having goosebumps, it was crazy, mental!”
The two rode together in the closing metres, agreeing on sharing of the day’s glory, rather than attacking one another; Gaudu securing the stage win and Roglič winning the overall title. It was a hard-earned victory for Gaudu after what was considered the toughest stage of the Itzulia Basque Country.
Gaudu also finished sixth place overall and said he will take his good form and confidence into the Ardennes Classics next week. “The Tour of the Basque Country is really the optimal preparation race for these events,” Gaudu said. “Now, I just need to stay focussed. I hope I will be there in great shape.”
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