Groupama-FDJ's David Gaudu was dropped as soon as stage 2 of the Tour de France got under way on Sunday, clearly suffering from his injuries sustained in a crash on the wet and slippery opening stage of the race on Saturday, during which team leader Thibaut Pinot – among many other riders – also crashed.
While Pinot appeared not to be suffering any major ill effects on Sunday, and was able to follow the main, front group of around 30 riders, Gaudu had to fight the pain in his lower back but able to fight his way back to the bunch and so survive to fight another day in the hope that his condition will soon improve.
Gaudu went into the race as Pinot's right-hand man for the mountains, although his form was already questionable after he was forced to miss key build-up race the Critérium du Dauphiné due to digestive problems.
"I was very, very scared, as was the whole team, when I was dropped at 'kilometre 0'," Gaudu admitted.
"I couldn't push the pedals without feeling immense pain in my sacrum area [bone at the base of the spine, above the tailbone].
"But it got better and better, and even though it was still a tough day, I managed to achieve the goal of getting to the finish inside the time limit," said Gaudu, who finished 96th, in a large group almost 18 minutes down on stage winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
"Thibaut finished in the first group, so it's all good, and the whole team feels a little better than last night," he continued.
"I just passed some x-rays as well, and that's reassuring because nothing is broken. I still feel limited when I have to make big accelerations, but we hope that things will improve.
"That's already been the case," said Gaudu, despite his tough day in the saddle. "We'll continue the osteopathy and physiotherapy sessions, and given that there is no fracture, there is no reason to think that it will get any worse."
Gaudu and Pinot both came down in the crash on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice with three kilometres to go of stage 1, which also brought down Bahrain McLaren's Rafael Valls, and ended the Spanish rider's Tour due to a broken femur.
"Thibaut limited the damage, and that's the main point," said Groupama-FDJ sports director Thierry Bricaud following stage 2.
"We had no ambition this morning – only not to lose time on the other favourites. We knew that a crash, especially one like he suffered, could have consequences. So, from that point of view, it was a pretty good day.
"We survived and we hope it will get better and better as the week goes on," Bricaud said. "But today was the big day – we had to get through it – and we did."
He added: "We can hope to get David back in good condition by next weekend, so that's good news."
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