Before reaching the second rest day, the peloton completed once again a very intense stage on the Vuelta this Sunday. In the mountains of Extremadura and Castile-and-Leon, Rudy Molard managed to go up the road after a big fight at the start of the race, but the got eventually caught by the bunch in the last long climb of the day. He therefore finished twenty-ninth on the stage but is already looking for opportunities in the last week.

The riders had to cover 197.5 kilometers on Sunday to complete quite a gruelling second week of racing on la Vuelta. Considering all this, some surely were not happy with how the day started. As it happened a lot in recent days, the breakaway could not go early on due to the numerous ambitions within the peloton. “The start was extremely fast,” testified Thierry Bricaud. “The average speed exceeded 50 km/h after an hour and a half of racing”. “It was another crazy day, already to enter the breakaway,” Rudy Molard reported. “With the wind at the start, we also almost had echelons! Then, with Kuss being in the first group, the chase was really hard. The fight then started again and it was a tough one”. When the Alto de la Centenera finally appeared on the route, after 70 kilometres of racing, the attacks kept going but also proved more efficient. A duo made of Rafal Majka and Fabio Aru first broke away, and loads of riders then found themselves in chase. “You had to try many times,” added Rudy. “I attacked a bit late and I had to close a 50 second-gap to make it to the group, but I really didn’t want to miss it. I’m glad I was in front, but it’s still a shame because we really didn’t cooperate well”.

“It was attack after attack all day,” Rudy Molard

At the top of the first real climb of the day, the chasing group was one one-minute and thirty-second behind the leading men. In the following climb, the Puerto de Pedro Bernardo, Majka got rid of Aru and further increased his gap over the 20 chasers. “Behind him, we just kept attacking each other”, Rudy said. “It was attack after attack all day. So we never had the opportunity to get closer to Majka, nor to gain ground on the peloton. It was a really tough day. When you’ve already done a big fight to be in breakaway, and that the break doesn’t work together and keeps attacking, it gets very complicated.” The chasing group eventually split into several pieces on the downhill to Puerto de Mijares (20 km at 5.5%), the last big climb of the day. Rudy Molard was actually caught by the peloton approaching the summit of this same climb, while Rafal Majka went on to conclude a 80 kilometre-solo. “I have no regrets”, said the Frenchman. “Majka was really strong, so was Kruijswijk, and the peloton caught almost everyone. The stage win was impossible today, but the legs were good. I will try again as soon as I have the opportunity next week, but it is also hard to make it work in breakaways like this one, and when the big names put on that kind of show”.

Still a member of a reduced bunch in the last climb of the day, the Groupama-FDJ rider was only distanced close from the summit and eventually crossed the line in 29th position, about four minutes behind the winner. The gruppetto including Arnaud Démare and Ramon Sinkeldam finished almost half an hour later, safely within the time limit. It is now time for a very much awaited rest day. “Everyone will enjoy it”, said Thierry. “There is general fatigue in the peloton and this day will certainly help”. It will hopefully help the team as well, since a real challenge is expected on Tuesday. “We can hope for a sprint but it won’t be easy as there are more than 2000 meters of elevation gain, Thierry concluded. However, we stick to the idea we’ve been having for the past two weeks, and hoping it will work out”.

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