The Groupama-FDJ did not have the best day on the Clásica San Sebastian on Sunday. However, despite the early abandons of David Gaudu and Michael Storer, the team still managed to get a decent twelfth place in the Basque city thanks to Rudy Molard. Alongside the French puncher in the final, Sébastien Reichenbach took twenty-fifth on the line.
A week after the end of the Tour, the Clásica San Sebastian brought together as usual some Tour de France participants and riders just returning to racing. The Groupama-FDJ cycling team also mixed these two profiles. A few days after his fourth final place in Paris, David Gaudu was at the start with one of his lieutenants, Michael Storer. Unfortunately, the race did not last long for the two men. “Michael crashed”, said Philippe Mauduit. “He’s got three stitches in his chin and two in his eyebrow arch. David was not feeling well, he felt sick. So, we were left with Matthieu, Lars, Sébastien and Rudy”. In this context, a breakaway of eight men was able to go quite early, with Théo Delacroix (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert), Manuele Boaro (Astana), Casper Pedersen, Martijn Tusveld (DSM), Eugenio Sanchez (Kern-Pharma), Ibai Azurmendi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Oscar Cabedo (Burgos-BH) and Fabien Grellier (TotalEnergies). The day’s fugitives, however, never enjoyed a considerable lead, and the gap was almost already closed with 70 kilometres to go, approaching the famous Jaizkibel. “It was not an easy race, as there was a hard pace all day”, testified Rudy Molard. “After the events of the start, we focused on Seb and Rudy”, explained Philippe. “Matthieu and Lars did a great job to position them as best as possible before the Jaizkibel and Erlaitz, the two decisive climbs of the day”.
“The guys managed to refocus”, Philippe Mauduit
While some big names got already dropped on the first of the two climbs, the “new” leaders of Groupama-FDJ were still up there in the main peloton when it was time to tackle the climb of Erlaitz (4k at 10%). “In the penultimate bump, the six riders in front were just too strong,” said Rudy Molard. “With Seb, we did a good climb behind, and we found ourselves in a small group”. The Swiss climber even got close from joining a group including Pavel Sivakov and Tiesj Benoot, the first chasers behind an outstanding Remco Evenepoel. “He didn’t miss much,” said Philippe. “It’s a pity because if he had managed to come back on them, he would have gone far”. Eventually, in the last hour of racing, six riders isolated themselves from the pack where the two men from Groupama-FDJ were. “We knew we could go for a place in the top-10”, added Rudy. “Our group didn’t work too well together, so it gradually came back from the back. We tried to make a difference in the last climb of the day (Murgil) but we didn’t manage to really make the group explode, and we ended up in a sprint for seventh place”. Four minutes after Remco Evenepoel, around twenty men fought for the top-10 places. Rudy Molard took twelfth place and Sébastien Reichenbach got twenty-fifth.
“Promising for the future”, Rudy Molard
“They did a very decent performance for a return to racing”, said Philippe. “Given the circumstances we can be satisfied, because the guys managed to refocus on a new goal. We knew that Rudy and Seb would come a bit short against the best, because they haven’t raced since the championships. However, it’s a good thing that they were able to switch and fight to get good placings”. “It’s a shame not to get this top-10, which could have concluded the day better than it had started,” said Rudy. “I’m pretty happy with my feelings for a return, and with my level after five weeks without racing. This proves that the work done in July was quite good, and it is quite promising for the future. It’s a good day on a personal level and it motivates me for the next races. La Clásica San Sebastian is a race that I like, and I will come back to try to get an even better result”.