This Thursday, Rudy Molard used the punchy top-finish at Alto de la Montaña de Cullera as a test, in stage 6 of La Vuelta. After a lively day that also included some echelons, the Groupama-FDJ’s rider eventually took twenty-second place on the line, fifteen seconds or so behind the main favourites. Promising ahead of the upcoming stages.

For the first time since the beginning of the Vuelta, the riders experienced a brutal start on Thursday from Requena. The first part of the stage, slightly downhill, also made for numerous attacks. However, the good move only went after forty kilometres with Joan Bou (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates) at first, then with the addition of Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH), Magnus Cort (EF Education Nippo) and Bert Jan Lindeman (Team Qhubeka NextHash). The bunch initially gave much space to the break, which enjoyed a lead of seven minutes, but BikeExchange later took the chase on hands for Michael Matthews. A proper fight then started between the leaders and the bunch, but the fight also occurred within the peloton itself in the last hour of racing due to a risk of echelons. “It was a really trying day with the wind, and the pack split many times,” said Rudy Molard. “We tried to stay in a good position. The team helped me a lot today. I realized I was with a group of Classics’ riders. When it’s windy, they’re in front, they like it. You can tell that’s their thing. Even though they had nothing to gain today, they decided to play along. I was able to stay in a good position and I didn’t get caught behind.” “The riders were focused all day”, confirmed Thierry Bricaud. “It was a fast, gruelling day and they protected Rudy very well, trying to bring him to the bottom of the final climb.”

“I wanted to test myself”, Rudy Molard

The Alto de la Montaña de Cullera (2km at 9%) was first tackled by day’s breakaway. The peloton arrived thirty seconds later and was left in pieces from the very first slopes due to the acceleration of Team Ineos. “This kind of effort suits me well so I wanted to try to hold on as much as possible,” said Rudy Molard. “I was a bit far at the bottom, as I was afraid to do my effort on the flat and then come short in the climb. I didn’t think they were going to pull so hard and so long at the bottom. I thought they were going to calm down a little and that I was going to be able to return in the group. In the end, I had to close the gaps left by the dropped riders. The legs were good anyway, but I was never able to get back into the favourites group. I was about to return with 500 metres to go, but that’s when they started their sprint. I couldn’t do much more. I got a decent place, but the feelings are good”. Rudy Molard eventually got 22nd, 27 seconds behind Magnus Cort, the only rider from the break to stay away. “Rudy needed to put in the effort in anticipation of the next few days, because the mountain stages are coming and we know that the breakaway will have a chance to make it,” said Thierry Bricaud. “We know he’s got the motivation and the will. It is always important to gain confidence before this kind of stages”. “I feel that the shape is getting better and better,” Rudy confirmed. “I wanted to test myself and see where I was with my condition. The Vuelta is really going to start tomorrow with a first really hard day.”

On the eve of a super hilly stage (3700 meters of vertical drop) towards Balcon de Alicante, Thierry Bricaud also brought reassuring news: “Kevin has had a rather good day following his crash yesterday. It’s quite encouraging. While it may still be difficult for him tomorrow, it’s still good ahead of the upcoming days. Tobias has crashed today, but it doesn’t seem serious as he only suffers some contusions.”

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