Frenchman Molard grabs Spanish Vuelta lead after 5th stage

ROQUETAS DE MAR, Spain (AP) — French rider Rudy Molard took the overall lead of the Spanish Vuelta on Wednesday, while Australia’s Simon Clarke won the fifth stage.

Clarke crossed the line ahead of Bauke Mollema of the Netherlands and Alessandro De Marchi of Italy, with Molard eight seconds behind but well ahead of the main peloton that included former leader Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland.

“My goal was actually to win the stage but I’m happy with the red jersey,” Molard said. “It was not expected. A leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour means a lot. It’s something unique, very special, that many riders would like to enjoy for a day. I’d like to keep it until Sunday. There are three easier days ahead with sprint finishes.”

Molard’s strong performance in the mountainous stage of nearly 190 kilometers (120 miles) from Granada to Roquetas de Mar gave the Frenchman a 41-second lead over Kwiatkowski in the overall standings, with Emanuel Buchmann 48 seconds off the pace.

“There’s always mixed feelings when you lose the jersey but at the end of the day we have to look at the big plan for this race and I think we were riding and controlling all day, managing our efforts, and it was part of the race,” Kwiatkowski said. “Sooner or later the breakaways were going to put us under pressure. I have to think in the bigger picture.”

Thursday’s sixth stage is a flat ride of 155.7 kilometers (96.7 miles) from Huercal-Overa to San Javier in the country’s southeast region.