The first part of La Vuelta came to an end on Sunday, with a very mountainous ninth stage in Andalusia. Rudy Molard and Olivier Le Gac made an attempt from the breakaway, which only went after 80 kilometers, but only Damiano Caruso was able to stay away from the GC favourites to the Alto de Velefique. Not in his best shape, Jacopo Guarnieri was forced to abandon. On Monday, the riders will enjoy a very welcomed rest day.

“Suddenly, I was empty,” Rudy Molard

The first week of the Vuelta ended this Sunday towards the Alto de Velefique with a hell of a course, featuring more than 4,700 meters of elevation. However, the start of the stage was not so hard and it made for quite a lively race for a while. “The goal was to be in the breakaway today,” said Thierry Bricaud. “Arnaud tried, but Olivier and Rudy especially did a great start. The pace was very high for two hours, and when the right move finally went, they were in there. We had two riders of the team in a group of eleven guys. Unfortunately for us, Ineos started to pull a little after, even if the breakaway was already three minutes in front.” In the endless climb (29 km at 4.3%) of the Alto Collado Venta Luisa, the bunch came back within just a minute and some riders from the break then decided to attack. With 70 kilometres left to go, Giro’s runner-up Damiano Caruso flew away solo in front. “When he attacked, I did not have anything left,” explained Rudy Molard. “I had a tough time halfway through the race. It’s a pity because we did the hardest part with Olivier by entering the breakaway. However, the fight was so intense that we left a lot of energy on the road. After the efforts of the last few days, especially for Arnaud, I already felt that the legs were a bit sore this morning. The furious start did not enable me to recover. Suddenly, I was empty and then the end of the stage felt quite long. It is how it is, but we’ll try again, there will be other opportunities. We still did a good race to be in front. Unfortunately, it was not my best day”. “It’s a shame for us, the spirit was very good once again,” Thierry insisted.

“A big disappointment”, Jacopo Guarnieri

At the head of the race, Damiano Caruso managed to conclude his long solo with a victory while Primoz Roglic came second, therefore reinforcing his red jersey. The first “gruppetto” including Arnaud Démare finished about thirty minutes later. “The stage was very fast, so the time limit was also much bigger, and the guys managed their day pretty well,” added Thierry. “It was not easy, but they were able to make it on time and the rest day is going to do good to everyone”. Unfortunately Jacopo Guarnieri won’t get there as he was forced to abandon the stage midway through on Sunday. “It was again a very tough day for him,” added Thierry. “He’s not at his very best since the start of this Vuelta. He was doing good, but not great, and that necessarily takes its toll entering the mountains, which are not his favourite terrain”. “I don’t perform at the level I would like to,” said the Italian. “This season I had some ups, downs and proper downs… Today we reached really hot temperatures again and my body said stop. I am very disappointed because the Tour and the Vuelta were the two most important races of the second part of the season, and they did not end well. I am not satisfied and the Vuelta unfortunately comes to an end far too early. It’s a big disappointment”.

Seven Groupama-FDJ riders will therefore be back on the road on Tuesday. Before that, the rest day will be welcome on Monday. “The first week was quite intense for us, with the stress of sprints and the fast mountain stages,” concluded Rudy Molard. “We’ll need to recover as best we can”.

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