Groupama-FDJ rode strongly to place five riders in the front group – including team leader Thibaut Pinot – that gained 1:21 on Bahrain McLaren's Mikel Landa, UAE Team Emirates' Tadej Pogacar and Trek Segafredo's Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema, as strong winds decimated stage 7 of the Tour de France on Friday.
Groupama-FDJ's day was in stark contrast to stage 1 of the Tour last Saturday, when both Pinot and right-hand man David Gaudu hit the ground and were left battered and bruised. Although Pinot appeared initially to be relatively unaffected, the team later admitted that he was being treated by an osteopath and physiotherapist for up to three hours a day to try to get through his injuries, and to cure some back pain.
Gaudu struggled through the early stages but now appears to be ready to work for Pinot on the climbs as the race heads into the Pyrenees on stage 8 on Saturday.
Up front with Pinot on Friday were Stefan Küng, Valentin Madouas, Matthieu Ladagnous and Rudy Molard, who all rode strongly to ensure that they finished in the same front group as defending Tour champion Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), Colombia's Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) and Jumbo-Visma duo Primoz Roglic and Tom Dumoulin after the race split with around 40km to go.
Pinot is well placed overall, ninth and 13 seconds down on race leader Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
"We always had to be careful and ride in front," Küng explained. "I told Thibaut to stay in my wheel, and he did that well.
"It was also a good sign that we were all together when the pace started to ramp up. It shows how strong the group is," the European time trial champion said.
"The climbers helped and protected us all day so we could save ourselves [for the finish]," explained Ladagnous. "For us rouleurs, the work really started after Castres, where we had to position Thibaut, and there ended up being five of us in the first echelon, so today was a good day for us."
Sports director Thierry Bricaud added: "We were up there with Thibaut, and that was the main thing. We got through this important day, but there are still many important days to come – starting this weekend in the Pyrenees, for two mountain stages that will set things up a bit for the rest of the Tour."
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