All eyes were on the battle between the Tour de France favorites in Friday’s climbing stage at Critérium du Dauphiné. But if you were French, chances are you were looking out for David Gaudu.
The 20-year-old French phenom has already impressed during his rookie season, finishing ninth in Flèche Wallonne. But illness caught up with him, and he was forced to abandon the Critérium du Dauphiné.
“I was hoping to show myself this weekend,” Gaudu said.
Gaudu was already struggling with a bad stomach for the past two days, and pulled out during the stage. He missed a chance to test himself against the peloton’s best climbers on a true climb.
“He said he wasn’t good again today,” said FDJ sport director Thierry Bricaud. “He said he had no legs the past two days. He tried, but it’s no use in insisting. It’s nothing catastrophic. He’ll recover, and race the French championships [in late June].”
At 5-foot-6 and 119lbs, many see Gaudu as France’s next climbing hope. With a measured VO2max of 92ml/kg-min, Gaudu is seeing plenty of expectations piled on his narrow shoulders.
“He’s built for the mountains,” FDJ’s Marc Madiot told the Le Dauphiné. “When he came to the training camp, we could see he is a pure climber. Mentally, he doesn’t doubt anything. He’s a true discovery, much like [Thibaut] Pinot when he turned pro. We’ll see.”
Last year, Gaudu beat Adrien Costa at the Tour de l’Avenir, and later won the U23 Peace Race. After riding as a stagiaire last summer, he joined FDJ on a two-year contract.
Madiot said he’s going to be patient with his diamond in the rough, and won’t take him to a grand tour in 2017. Instead, Gaudu has been getting a taste of WorldTour racing. Volta a Catalunya and Tour de Romandie have been mixed in with a French calendar.
The much-vaunted “Class of 1990” is already center-stage in the peloton. Riders like Gaudu represent an even newer wave and will soon be nipping at their heels. He is also part of a renaissance in French cycling.