Sunday’s stage 5 through the “Muri” of Castelfidardo was supposed to be the queen stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, and it did meet the expectations. At the end of an extremely lively race, made even more gruelling due to the weather conditions, Mathieu van der Poel took a memorable victory. As for Rudy Molard, he managed to stay with the best for a long time and then fought hard on the last lap to secure a good position overall. On Sunday evening, he indeed moves up to 16th.
“I was frozen, paralyzed by the cold”, Rudy Molard
The weather conditions starting the fifth stage of Tirreno-Adriatico did not give a glimpse at all of what was to come later in the day. “We set off by the sea, with mild temperatures, tailwind and the start was very fast”, Sébastien Joly said. So fast that the day’s breakaway could only establish itself after the first hour of the race, which was covered with an average speed of 55 km/h. “It was quite a start to the day,” Rudy Molard said later. Still, five riders managed to take the lead, including the world time trial champion Filippo Ganna. At the halfway point, however, a whole new race started on the very hilly circuit of Castelfidardo. “Very quickly, we then had to deal with rain, wind and cold”, said Sébastien Joly. “The conditions really got extreme”. This did not prevent Valentin Madouas from attempting an attack on the first loop, with more than seventy kilometers to go. “We wanted to be one step ahead of the best,” explained Sébastien. “However, the best started the fight really early. Valentin made a good move but the big moves started right after with Van der Poel”.
Taking advantage of the high slopes of Castelfidardo’s climb, the Dutch champion attacked a first time with sixty-five kilometers to go and the peloton was immediately split into pieces. Because of “bad positioning”, Rudy Molard was left behind in a first place but then managed to bridge across the favourites’ group after a 10-kilometer chase. He then stayed with them for over an hour, as Van der Poel went for a spectacular solo. “The final was very hard, but even more so because of the rain,” said Rudy. “It started to get really cold and the pace was so fast that I couldn’t go to the car to take a rain jacket. I could only get something to cover myself with one lap to go, and it was too late. I was already shaking for an hour. I was frozen and paralyzed by the cold. I couldn’t speak. I had trouble braking and couldn’t feed myself. I had two options: either going to the car and taking the risk of not coming back or staying with the favourites as long as possible. I chose the second option in order to gain places overall as I saw a few leaders failing. On the last lap however, I blew up and lost a lot of time. I was empty, I did not have the legs, but I have no regrets. I’m happy with my day and I hung on as long as possible”.
“Once again, Rudy fought well”, Sébastien Joly
A few hours later, Rudy even placed the day’s stage among the “top 5 of the hardest days” he has experienced on a bike. He eventually crossed the line in 25th position on Sunday, more than nine minutes behind Mathieu van der Poel, who secured the win in front of Tadej Pogacar. “Rudy did a very good stage”, said Sébastien. “He gave it all, he was freezing cold like most of the peloton today. As the race opened up early, it got very difficult to give the rain jackets to the guys. We got all surprised; I didn’t see any team anticipating. It was harsh for everyone, and we could witness it with lots of riders. The weather conditions obviously played a role, but the impact was so important because the circuit was already extremely tough. Once again, Rudy fought well. The GC was not particularly a target for him. The idea rather was to do a good stage, and that’s what he did”. Despite his difficult end of the race, Rudy Molard did move up on the overall standings this Sunday. Before the last two stages, he sits in 16th position. “Whether I’m 12th or 16th, it doesn’t change much,” he concluded. “More than anything, I wanted to enjoy these stages. We also have to say that the star tlist on this Tirreno-Adriatico is crazy. The level is huge and it might be one of the toughest races I have been able to compete in terms of the field’s quality”.