As a fan of cycling I appreciate that all too few riders win races, not because they’re incapable of winning but because most spend their careers in the service of others. So when a professional cyclist you know wins a race or a stage, you know how much it means to them, their family and friends. It’s the best feeling ever. Probably better than winning yourself.
Friday I witnessed a rider I know, admire and have interviewed win a stage of a WorldTour race. He’d targeted the stage because it finished not far from where he now lives and on roads on which he trains. However targeting a stage and winning it are two entirely different things. This is how it happened.
Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) got the jump on the leading group with just over a kilometre to go and pedaled as if his life depended on it. Momentary confusion in the group enabled him to hold them off and solo across the finish line, arms aloft. Thereafter he collapsed, gulping in air, trying to take in what had just happened. He’d won his first WorldTour race, something he’d been threatening since his two podium places at the start of the season.
Like a lot of riders in the peloton, Rudy doesn’t live far from the finish and as he explained post-race:
I knew the course like the palm of my hand. Since the profile of this Paris-Nice was announced, I was delighted with such a finale which suited my qualities. I was on a good day and it’s fantastic to win a stage here. I really needed to attack before the sprint. I tried several times and it worked. It’s just great.
Indeed, it was great Rudy and I feel privileged to have been there to witness your victory which was popular with many of the riders. I feel sure it’s the first of many. Of course, my race winning brownies might also have played their part!
Postscript: After Saturday’s Dantesque stage, Rudy was last man standing on his team. Without support, and still feeling the effects of his endeavours on Friday, he slid down the GC.