Things were getting serious on Thursday in Tirreno-Adriatico, with a hilly final part of the stage and a punchy finish in Chiusdino. Although he was in the mix for a good place at the finish, Rudy Molard proved to be unlucky in the last kilometre, as he was slowed down by a crash. The 31-year-old Frenchman eventually finished a few seconds behind the first group, where Julian Alaphilippe won the sprint for victory.
Today’s stage on Tirreno-Adriatico was made of two distinct parts: the first half was completely flat while the second proved to be more undulating, especially in the last fifty kilometers. A breakaway including Simon Pellaud (Androni-Sidermec), Marcus Burghardt (Bora-hansgrohe), Vincenzo Albanese, John Archibald (Eolo-Kometa), Simone Velasco (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) first took the lead and enjoyed a 5-minute gap on the bunch. However, this gap quickly dropped approaching the last quarter of the race, as the various GC teams would fight for position before a crucial point of the course. “As we imagined, the race was made harder around fifty kilometers from the finish,” said Sébastien Joly. “There was a climb, not really steep, but that got narrower near the top. The downhill after that was also quite narrow, and straight after that downhill, the riders would find themselves on steep slopes. The race really started at that point and the strongest got in front”. In the Poggio alla Croce, located about thirty-five kilometers from the finish, the favourites started the fight earlier than expected and the first attack came from former Tour winner Egan Bernal. Eventually, four riders made a real gap approaching the top of the climb: Pavel Sivakov, Mikel Landa, Simon Yates and Joao Almeida.
“Rudy is going very well”, Sébastien Joly
In the back, the bunch was reduced to 50 riders or so, with Rudy Molard and Benjamin Thomas for Groupama-FD. The gap with the leaders went up to 30 seconds but the peloton gradually came closer on the long but steady final climb to Chiusdino (7.5 km at 3.5%). “Benji worked really well for Rudy, he brought him back in the wind in the last few kilometers,” Sébastien added. “Rudy was in good position for the final, in the mix for a top 10. Unfortunately, there was a crash in the last kilometre and a rider hit his back wheel. Luckily he didn’t crash, but he was really delayed and he didn’t finish in the winner’s time. It’s a bit of a shame because he fought well and he’s going very well. He was a little disappointed, but the good thing is that he’s in good shape. He should have more opportunities this week.” Last man standing from the leading quartet, Almeida only got caught in the last few hundred meters. In the end, his teammate Julian Alaphilippe sprinted to the win from a 30-riders bunch.
Rudy Molard crossed the line 19 seconds later and is tonight the team’s first rider on GC. “There is obviously a bit of disappointment regarding Valentin, because we were initially aiming for the GC with him,” added Sébastien. “Unfortunately, he was in a great day and that’s a shame because we know he was extremely motivated. That being said, it is also part of cycling. We will calmly take stock this evening. Rudy is not too far in the overall and there are still stages to go for and things to do before we get to San Benedetto del Tronto”.