A red jersey wearer on the Vuelta a few weeks ago, Rudy Molard ended his 2022 season in a great way this Saturday. On the Tour of Lombardy, last Monument of the year, the French puncher confirmed his excellent shape and fought, once again, with the world’s best leaders. In Como, after a tough final, he even scored his best career result on a Monument, taking eighth place in a chasing group. Doing so, he also brought Groupama-FDJ its 14th top-10 of the season on the WorldTour Classics.
This Saturday, October 8, the 2022 WorldTour calendar was coming to an end, through one of the most emblematic events. From Bergamo to Como, through 253 kilometres, almost 5000 meters of elevation and the famous ascent of the Madonna del Ghisallo, the 117th Tour of Lombardy awaited a very high-quality field. The start was expected quite early, shortly after 10 a.m., and some twenty kilometres were necessary for the day’s breakaway to establish itself with Christian Scaroni (Astana-Qazaqstan Team), Luca Covili, Alex Tolio (Bardiani-CSF), Natnael Tesfatsion, Simone Ravanelli, Davide Bais (Androni-Sidermec), Alessandro De Marchi (Israel-Premier Tech), Lawson Craddock (BikeExchange), Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) and Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R -Citroen). The peloton enjoyed a slight rest before tackling the first climbs, letting the gap reach six minutes, but it did not last for very long. “With this new course, we knew that the first part would be very tiring”, explained Sébastien Joly. “In the first hundred and twenty kilometres, there were already 2500 meters of elevation, which did not happen often in recent years. We also knew that it could benefit us, especially Rudy”. “There was a really high tempo from the start”, said the Frenchman. “This is one of the first times you can barely stop for a call of nature on the Tour of Lombardy. The bunch was always in a long line, always going full gas, so as to make everyone tired. Without the Muro di Sormano, the leaders surely wanted to make the race hard from the start”.
“I knew I was in good shape”, Rudy Molard
After an extremely hilly first half of the race, the riders had the opportunity to catch their breath over fifty kilometres leading to the bottom of the Madonna del Ghisallo (8.7 km at 5.4%). “We experienced some troubles because we lost two ill riders one after the other, namely Lada and Attila”, explained Sébastien. “Both had an important role. So, we had to deal with five riders, but we managed to use other teams’ work”. As expected, the race really started seventy kilometres from the finish, which was also the moment the break was caught. In the Madonna del Ghisallo, the selection was made due to a high tempo. By the summit, only half of the starters were still in the mix. Quentin Pacher, Rudy Molard and Michael Storer were up there. After a transition part, the leading group reached Como to tackle the climb of San Fermo della Battaglia (2.8 km at 6.7%) for the first time. The three Groupama-FDJ riders kept up the pace, and were therefore still among the forty riders who got to the bottom of the decisive climb of Civiglio (4km at 10%), twenty-two kilometres from the line. Unsurprisingly, the race exploded at that point. Following an extremely high pace from his teammates, Tadej Pogacar went away with Enric Mas and Mikel Landa. Putting on a great fight, Rudy Molard found himself in a chasing group with eight other outsiders, including Vingegaard, Valverde, Bardet and Yates.
As he completed this penultimate climb, the French puncher remained in contention for the top-10. On the other hand, the podium soon became out of reach as the leading trio increased their gap to almost a minute starting the second climb of San Fermo della Battaglia. Due to a lack of cooperation, the chasing group also let Sergio Higuita and Carlos Rodriguez slip away, and these two were able to create a nice margin before the final hill of the day. Rudy Molard followed an offensive from Romain Bardet halfway up the climb but could not get rid of all of his rivals. “I know that after six hours, the Classic riders often take over,” said Rudy. “I regularly fight for top-10s on Monuments and on the biggest races, so that gives me confidence. Mentally, you need to fight until the end. Anyway, everyone was a bit dead in the final. Due to the very high tempo all day, it was hard to know one’s feelings. I didn’t really feel like I was having a great day, but it was enough to play in the final and I couldn’t give up. It was an attrition race, but I knew I was in good shape after my week in Italy.” Eventually, the Groupama-FDJ rider tackled the last descent to Como with four other riders, and therefore sprinted for a position in the top-10. He was beaten by Valverde and Mollema, but he got the best of Bardet and Yates to take eighth. “I’m really happy,” he said. “I improved my best result (10th in 2019, note). When I look at the top-10, there are only leaders from the big teams, so I have no regrets. I’m really happy to finish like this”.
“Rudy deserves this result”, Sébastien Joly
This Saturday, Rudy Molard also set his best career performance on a Monument. “After seven months away from racing (last winter, editor’s note), I questioned myself a lot and I started this year with a lot of motivation”, he added. “I told myself that I had to do my best in every race. That’s what I was able to do, with top-10 finishes in almost every month of the season. I also think that this top-10 on a Monument is really good for the team”. “Rudy was superb in the final”, concluded Sébastien Joly. “In the top-10, there are only champions. I am very happy for him, because he has gotten back to his level. He deserves this result for many reasons: he is a hard worker, a passionate rider, and a racer. He deserves to end the season with this very good performance and that will allow him to spend a good winter”.