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Dynamite, it is said, comes in small packages. And if you still need any proof, look no further than the punchy French climber David Gaudu.
The 24-year-old who rides for the Groupama-FDJ team may not be a household name yet. Yet by cycling standards, he is pure pedigree as the wiry climber packs plenty of punch and power. Gaudu will get a real chance to step up with his team as he will lead them in the general classification hunt at Paris-Nice.
Gaudu won the Tour de l’Avenir in his last season in the U23 ranks in 2016. Considered by many the most telling stage race in its category, many of its winners often go on to greater glory once they hit the professional ranks. While Gaudu has not yet won at the Tour de France — as have former Avenir winners like 2017 winner Egan Bernal or 2018 champ Tadej Pogačar — he has progressed steadily upward and has won two stages at the Vuelta a Espanã.
Gaudu is often in the mix early in the year. But he is rarely a winner. That changed this past week when he stormed to victory in Faun Ardèche Classic — a hilly race in the Rhone River Valley — outsprinting countryman Clement Champoussin and British rider Hugh Carthy.
“I have never won so early in the season and it is also the first victory for the team so I hope that it helps to really launch the season for us,” Gaudu told VeloNews in a phone conversation earlier this week. “Winning early is always good for the morale on a personal and collective level.”
While Gaudu spent much of his formative years in the shadows of Thibaut Pinot, he nevertheless won races of his own each year since turning pro, and he is excited by the leadership prospects in the Tour de France.
“I’ve been really happy with my progression since turning professional. I have managed to win every year and the level of victories has also progressed. New doors open with each victory.”
“I am really want to test myself in the three-week races,” Gaudu says. “Groupama-FDJ has really invested in me since turning professional and I will be having more and more chances to be a leader. And that is what I will be doing in Paris-Nice, as I will share leadership with Démare who will be there for the sprints.”
Gaudu says that the two got their first taste at co-leadership at the UAE Tour last year. But that was at the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, and the world has changed since then. But they plan to use Paris-Nice as a real test.
Sure, it will offer several opportunities to score another victory, but it will also allow him to get his first real taste as a team leader.