Words by Jeremy Whittle | Photo by SWpix.com
David Gaudu’s online gaffe earlier this week has stirred intrigue at the Groupama-FDJ team, with a leadership battle brewing as the French team come to terms with Thibaut Pinot’s looming retirement
Marc Madiot, manager of the Groupama-FDJ, became the latest team boss embroiled in an internal spat after star rider David Gaudu let slip some major indiscretions about his feelings on teammate and co-leader Arnaud Démare.
Speaking in what he thought was a private online conversation with ‘invited’ friends on Discord, the Breton rider criticised sprinter Démare for his presence at what was predominantly a climbers training camp in Tenerife.
“He chose to come,” Gaudu, fourth in the 2022 Tour de France, said of Démare’s presence on the camp. “His fault if he gets burnt!”
Warming to his theme, Gaudu continued: “He wants to be selected for the Tour. But that’s no shoe-in. I don’t want him to come to the Tour, (but) to stay at home.”
Gaudu didn’t stop there, revealing real tensions between the pair during the camp. “He didn’t want to get in the lift because I was already in it. The good thing is we don’t speak to each other and never — almost — ride together…
“If he wants me to say it to his face, I’m happy to do it,” he added. “I’m not scared of him… he knows I don’t want him at the Tour.”
According to the French media, relations between the pair have never been good. The 26-year-old Gaudu has spoken of a lack of respect towards him, while Démare, 32 this year, has apparently evoked generational and cultural differences between them.
“I know they will never be best mates,” Madiot told L’Equipe, “but this childishness has to stop.”
The story comes hot on the heels of Pinot, the team’s iconic leader, announcing that 2023 will be his final season and it’s clear that the jousting for position has already begun. Démare, a sprinter who blows hot and cold, but that in his best form can prove almost unstoppable, knows that he is edging towards his twilight years.
The ambitious Gaudu, who finally fulfilled his youthful promise with his performance in last year’s Tour, is now growing in confidence and hoping to build greater success on that foundation. He will know, also, that a team built around two objectives — stage wins and a place on the Paris podium — is unlikely to achieve both.
Although Gaudu issued a hasty if muted apology, stating that his remarks should never had been made public, the damage was done. Madiot will now be hoping to calm the dynamic before both riders tackle their first major rendezvous of 2023.
But there are shades here of past training camp spats, the kind that develop when riders are holed up in remote hotels, training, eating and sleeping, breakfasting at dawn and getting back from training at dusk, eager for the season to start — and also spending too much time online. It also, no doubt unintentionally, ramps up the expectations on Gaudu to perform at the Tour in July.