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Part of a 9-rider breakaway that held off the peloton by 4 seconds, Molard took the first win of his career on stage 3 of the Tour du Limousin; Herrada defended the overall lead

Photo: Unipublic/Graham Watson

FLORIAN VACHON

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JESUS HERRADA

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JULIEN ANTOMARCHI

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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RUDY MOLARD

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TOUR DU LIMOUSIN

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20.08.2015 @ 17:13 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Rudy Molard (Cofidis) became a hugely surprising winner of the third stage of the Tour du Limousin when his 9-rider breakaway managed to hold off the peloton after a hectic finale. In the final dash to the line, he beat Florian Vachon (Bretagne) and Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix) while Jesus Herrada (Movistar) defended his overall lead by arriving four seconds later.

 

The Tour du Limousin is known for its lumpy terrain that makes the stages hard to control but with lots of sprinters and puncheurs on the start list, the stages almost always come down to some kind of sprint from a bigger group. However, the many hills provide attackers a chance to create a surprise and that’s what climber Rudy Molard did in today’s third stage.

 

Known for his climbing skills in hilly terrain, Molard has proved himself in tough stage races like the Tour de Luxembourg where he has twice been in the top 5 in his short career that started in 2015. He has also shown promise in the Ardennes classics but the elusive first victory has always escaped him.

 

That changed today in a stage that didn’t look like it would be one for him. However, the race is usually decided by bonus seconds so he decided to go on the attack to see if he could pick up some seconds in the intermediate sprints and so gain some time in the overall standings.

 

However, a frantic start had taken its toll on the peloton when 8 riders finally got clear. Even though it included several strong, in-form riders, the peloton allowed them to get an advantage of more than 5 minutes and when they started their chase, it quickly became evident that it was probably too late.

 

With 20km to go, the gap was still 2.25 and it was clear that a surprise could be in store. Five kilometres later it was still 1.45 and at the 10km to go banner the escapees still held an advantage of 1.20.

 

The attacking briefly seemed to spell an end to the breakaway but after Alexandre Pichot (Europcar) had been dropped, the escapees started to cooperate again. The short gap allowed Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Quentin Pacher (Armee) to bridge the gap with less than 2km to go and it all came down to a nail-biting finish.

 

In the end, the 9 riders managed to hold off the peloton by four seconds and Molard proved his speed by beating Florian Vachon and Julien Antomarchi to open his professional account. Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) led the peloton home.

 

Movistar had been chasing hard to defend Jesus Herrada’s lead and they did just enough to do that. With a total of 15 bonus seconds picked up during the stage, Molard reduced his deficit to just a single second as he started the stage 20 seconds back and so moves into second.

 

Hence, all is set for thrilling finale in tomorrow’s final stage. It’s another lumpy course with three categorized climbs but it ends with three laps of a finishing circuit whose uphill finish has often suited the strong sprinters.

 

A lumpy stage

After the queen stage, the terrain was a bit easier in the third stage which brought the riders over 185.9km from Saint-Dizier-Leyrenne to Aigurande. As usual, it was up or down all day with three category 3 climbs, with the final ascent summiting 24.5km from the finish. From there it was more lumpy terrain until the riders got to final rise to the finish.

 

It was another very hot day in Limousin when the riders gathered for the start. Elia Favilli (Southeast) was the only non-started and became the third rider from his team to abandon the race.

 

A fast start

The real start was delayed slightly as Eduard Grosu (Nippo) had a mechanical problem but when the race finally got going, it was very fast. Auber 93 were very active in the early part before a 10-rider group got clear after 10m of racing. Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) was one of them and made the selection when just four riders were left but at the 15km mark, it all came back together. At this point, several riders had been dropped, including Manabu Ishibashi (Nippo), Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r) and Tristan Marguet (Roth) who abandoned.

 

An FDJ rider was next to try before a 12-rider group briefly got clear. Then it was Jeremy Roy (FDJ) giving it a try after 34km of attacking but his 10-second advantage was neutralized by the time they got to the first intermediate sprint where Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) scored important bonus seconds by beating Andrea Pasqualon (Roth) and Maurits Lammertink (Roompot).

 

The break gets clear

After the sprint, the elastic finally snapped when Alexandre Pichot (Europcar), Hubert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale), Florian Vachon (Bretagne), Rudy Molard (Cofidis), Adrian Honkisz (CCC Sprandi), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Clement Saint-Martin (Marseille 13 KTM) and Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix-Lille Métropole) took off. As the peloton slowed down, the gap had gone out to 1.50 and the 55km mark.

 

While Berlato beat Molard and Dupont in the first KOM sprint, Movistar took control and allowed the gap to grow to 2.50 at the 62km mark. It went out to 3.30 before Bardiani took over. Moments later, Vachon beat Molard and Saint-Martin in the second intermediate sprint.

 

The gap comes down

Entering the final 100km, the gap had gone out to more than four minutes and it was still 4.10 ten kilometres later. The peloton was not panicking yet and so it was five minutes with 80km to go.

 

Berlato beat Vachon and Antomarchi in the second KOM sprint where the peloton finally accelerated. The gap was now 4.25 and it was still 4.10 with 50km to go.

 

Bonus seconds for Molard

When Molard beat Vachon and Saint-Martin in the third intermediate sprint, the gap was 4.00 and only coming down slowly. It was 3.35 with 35km to go and five kilometres later it had only been reducd by 30 seconds.

 

Berlato led Dupont and Saint-Martin over the top of the final climb where the gap was still 2.40. Meanwhile, Arthur Vanoverberghe (Topsport) abandoned.

 

A thrilling finale

With 20km to go, the gap was 2.25 and it was 1.45 five kilometres later. At the 10km to go mark, it was 1.20 and it was now Movistar chasing hard as they tried to defend their lead.

 

When the gap was down to 50 seconds, Antomarchu launched an unsuccessful attack that spelled the end for Pichot. Molard made the next move but he was brought bac with 5km to go when the gap was still 50 seconds.

 

The breakaway again worked well together and had an advantage of 25 seconds with 3km to go when Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Quentin Pacher (Armee) tried to attack from the peloton. The peloton was 20 seconds behind with 2km to go and before the two chasers managed to join the leaders. At the flamme rouge, it was 10 seconds and that turned out to be enough for Molard to take a sprint win.

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