There couldn’t have been a much worse stage to suffer from a bad day on the Tour de France this year than stage 11, with its double ascent of Mont Ventoux, and 24-year-old French hope David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) was left counting the hefty price of his day of suffering.
Before the stage Gaudu was sitting in tenth place, seven minutes behind leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) but just two minutes away from the podium. After the stage he had slumped to fifteenth, with those podium places now more than 25 minutes away and that former top ten position a distant 20 minutes off.
“Even before the first climb of the Ventoux, he told us he was struggling and that he really was not feeling well,” said Groupama-FDJ sports director Yvon Madiot.
“He had no legs, he had a heatstroke and that led to digestive issues and vomiting. The heat at the start obviously had an impact.”
The Giant of Provence, far from being a curse, looked for a while like it could be a saviour for the climber.
“He felt a bit better atop of the first ascent of the Ventoux,” said Madiot. “It was a little cooler and the peloton was not going full gas, which allowed them to come closer. But it was just an illusion, it didn’t last.”
Teammates Stefan Küng and Valentin Madouas dropped back from the bunch, but it wasn’t enough. The gap stretched and Gaudu finished back in 73rd place, more than 25 minutes behind winner Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in a stage that he would have expected to suit him better than a 78kg Classics rider that just the day before took second in a sprint stage.
“David worked hard before coming here. He really committed to it, and so did the team for him”, said Madiot. “It’s obviously hugely disappointing to lose everything in one day.”
As well as the GC hopes, Groupama-FDJ also lost another rider with Australian Miles Scotson abandoning in the earlier stages of the race. That leaves the team with just four riders after Arnaud Démare and Jacopo Guarnieri missed the time cut on stage 9 and Ignatas Konovalovas was badly injured on the first stage.
The remaining group of Küng and Madouas, Gaudu and Bruno Armirail will now, out of necessity, change their focus.
Madiot said that before pursuing other opportunities, Gaudu would need to get his health back but that his teammates could spring to action during the upcoming stages.
“We’re getting to intermediate stages, for breakaways, and we will be able to give freedom to his teammates, especially Valentin and Stefan,” said Madiot.
“We still have a few cards to play. We just have to accept the situation and get going again to take a stage win and good results. It’s of course a very harsh day for us, but we need to bounce back from it.”
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