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Bauke Mollema rides to victory

Bauke Mollema rides valiantly to win stage 15 of the Tour de France

Stage 15 raised a number of tactical questions for the teams involved in the General Classification. With a rest day following, would the trio teams of Astana, AG2R La Mondiale and Cannondale choose to attack Team Sky? Chris Froome, wearing the leader’s yellow jersey survived a scare when he suffered a puncture. At that point it looked like the yellow jersey may change hands for the fourth time, it didn’t. Dutch rider Bauke Mollema rode home to victory, claiming his first Tour de France stage win.

Warren Barguil, riding for Team Sunweb has raced aggressively throughout this tour. Prior to the stage, he spoke to

“We talked about winning back to back stages but it seemed something very difficult to achieve. But today, we want more! Shall we win three in a row, it would be exceptional. There are some fabulous stages coming and we’ll try to get one more victory.”

A group of 10 riders formed the initial break from the gun, Tony Martin and Warren Barguil, wearer of the polka dot jersey among them. The race took some time to settle down and riders fragmented into five different groups. The riders eventually came together after 50KM of racing, numbering 28 in the breakaway.

Team Sky looked like the team to be making mistakes. Froome required a bike change 30KM from the finish, the peloton didn’t wait for him. Froome had no choice other than to bridge the gap back to his rivals, he was aided by team mates Vasili Kirienka and Sergio Luis Henao. AG2R had achieved their aim of isolating Froome, the French team were further up the road. Nairo Quintana had been present in the AG2R bunch, he was eventually dropped and slipped in behind the wheel of Froome.

The dynamics of the stage changed by the minute. Froome became isolated, he exerted enormous amounts of energy in a frenetic attempt to get back to Romain Bardet, Aru and Uran, it was a miraculous recovery.  There was a real sense of intense energy among the stage leader and GC contenders alike. It was easy to forget about the valiant efforts at the front of the race.

Mollema was the solo leader, looking for his first Tour de France win, he had 13Km to hold off the chasing pair of Barguil and Primoz Roglic. Diego Ulissi and Tony Gallopin joined the chasing pair to form a quartet.  Mollema’s efforts were being hindered by a headwind but his persistence paid off, he held on to take a well-deserved stage win. Dan Martin of Quick Step has not been afraid to put the hammer down during the Tour de France, he has moved into 5th place overall and will arguably be a future Tour de France champion.

It’s all smiles once more on the Team Sky bus. Froome’s determination kept him in the yellow jersey, it could have been a very different story.

“We really looked at that final. We looked at the video of two years ago when Greg [Van Avermaet] won here and we said it’s got to be a leadout into that climb. We’ve got to be right at the front and there will be splits. It’s great to have Froomey back in yellow.

“We’ve given up the yellow jersey once and I saw a pretty disappointed Froomey when he had to hand it over. He won’t want to do that again.” Source

We are two-thirds of the way through the Tour de France. There have been many talking points up to this point, Peter Sagan’s disqualification from the race is arguably the biggest. Stage 15 was set up for attacks and counterattacks, it didn’t disappoint. We’ve learned that Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana are not in the kind of shape to pose any threat to the leader’s jersey. Martin, Mikel Landa and Simon Yates have been the surprise riders in the chase for the yellow jersey. Froome has a slender lead of 18 seconds on Aru, the Tour de France is far from over.  Tomorrow’s rest day will be a welcome change of pace for the riders.

Stage 14 result

1. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) 4:21:56
2. Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing)
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) +1″
4. Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors)
5. Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe)

General Classification

1. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 59:52:09
2. Fabio Aru (Astana) +18″
3. Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) +23″
4. Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) +29″
5. Mikel Landa (Team Sky) +1:17”
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