The Dark Horse Contender for the 2023 Tour de France: David Gaudu

Anna McKenzie
3 min readJun 19, 2023

This post is sponsored by Seaweed for the People.

Last year’s dark horse, Jonas Vingegaard, proved his potential by reaching the top of the Tour de France podium in 2022. He looks more than ready to defend his title this year, with a stellar first place result in the Criterium du Dauphine, the unofficial dress rehearsal for the Tour. He’ll have to overcome a raging Tadej Pocagar, whose continued dominance and thirst for a rematch are evident from his early season races.

However, should the two titans fall — be it sickness, injury, or bad luck — this year’s dark horse contender is the French favorite, David Gaudu of Groupama-FDJ.

Why Gaudu? We already know that some other serious contenders won’t be attending the Tour this year, namely Primoz Roglic, Geraint Thomas, and Remco Evenpoel. Gaudu has a respectable chance, consistently cropping up as one of the “best of the rest.” He placed fourth in last year’s Tour behind Geraint Thomas. Even though it was a distant fourth (13 minutes back from Vingegaard’s winning time), placing that high over three weeks in the Tour is no mean feat.

Earlier this year, Gaudu beat out Vingegaard for second place in Paris-Nice — runner up only to Pogacar — which was an impressive performance for the 26 year-old Frenchman. He’s proven he can be in the mix, and he’ll have home court advantage — roadsides full of raving French fans to cheer him on. That also means that he’ll be under pressure to deliver the first French Tour win since 1985.

Gaudu has dealt with some illness in the past couple months, and his 30th place result in the recent Criterium du Dauphine was off-kilter. However, the leadership at Groupama-FDJ did not seem to be worried, and neither did Gaudu. He knows the work ahead of him, and his Tour experience may serve him well in July. Prior to placing fourth in last year’s Tour, Gaudu placed 17th in the 2022 Dauphine, signaling that his dress rehearsals don’t necessarily dictate his Tour performances.

It remains unlikely that Vingegaard or Pogacar will let anyone else battle for the top two steps of the podium, but the Tour de France is a force of nature; it shows no partiality. Pogacar fractured his wrist at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and we have yet to see whether he is back on form. Vingegaard is missing two key lieutenants for the Tour — Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk. Roglic opted to race the Giro this year (which he won) and is headed back to the Vuelta. Kruijswijk crashed in the Dauphine and broke his collarbone.

So the inevitable Vingegaard-Pogacar showdown already has some hitches; it’s bound to suffer more as the Tour gets underway. Should anything happen to either one of them, David Gaudu has an opportunity to steal his way to a result that the French have been longing for since the days of Bernard Hinault.

Honorable mentions for dark horse:

  • Jai Hindley of Bora-Hansgrohe placed fourth in the Criterium du Dauphine this year and has been looking impressive in the 2023 season. One caveat is that he has never been to a Tour de France. You don’t always need experience to do well (Vingegaard being a prime example), but it helps. Hindley won the Giro in 2022, showing that he can be a Grand Tour winner, but the Giro is not le Tour. And Bora-Hansgrohe may have competing interests — they’ll be seeking stage wins with their sprinter. When the rubber meets the road, they may not be ready to throw their weight behind Hindley in hopes of yellow.
  • Ben O’Connor of AG2R Citroen snagged third place in the Dauphine, and he placed fourth in the Tour in 2021. With Tour experience and his form on point, O’Connor could sneak up behind the big contenders. It’s a question as to whether AG2R could support him if he gains the yellow jersey, but he looks positioned to ruffle some feathers in the high mountains of the Tour.

Who do you think could win the Tour if Vingegaard or Pogacar make a misstep?

This post is sponsored by Seaweed for the People.

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Anna McKenzie

Christ follower. Copywriter-in-Chief @ CreativeDemand, LLC. Author of Mission, Market, Message: The Actionable Guide to Marketing for Small Business Owners.