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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, July 17, 2017

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. - Buddha

Current Racing

Latest completed racing:

Tour de France stage 15 team reports

Monday is the Tour's second rest day.

Bauke Mollema soloed to a brilliant victory in stage 15: Here's the report from his Trek-Segafredo team:

Bauke Mollema attacked his breakaway group and soloed the final 27 kilometers of stage 15 in the Tour de France to take home the biggest win of his career Sunday.

"This is for sure my biggest win. I just can't believe it! This is what I have worked so hard for the last few years. The Tour de France has always been the most important race for me, always been my dream, and finally I have won a stage," he said. "I am incredibly happy."

It was an audacious attack. One that at first seemed ill-fated with almost 30 kilometers to go and a strong breakaway group giving pursuit.  But Mollema never thought twice. And never relented his effort. Even when the chasers came to within 17 seconds at the top of the final category-four climb, he pushed onward, digging even deeper.

"The last kilometers were really hard. I knew I had to try because I am not so explosive and I would not have won the sprint," explained Mollema about his attack. "I was pushing all the time, and in one moment it came back to 11 seconds. At that moment, I was thinking I have to go; I don’t want to lose it now!

"So with two kilometers to go, I just gave everything I had. Yesterday I had seen the last six kilometers on Google maps, so I knew the corners more or less,  so I didn't blow up, I could keep going to the finish line."

"Then in the last kilometer I knew I still had 10-15 seconds, so at that moment I knew I was going to make it. The last few hundred meters were so nice. I could really celebrate, enjoy all the people, and enjoy winning a Tour de France stage. I will never forget this," he added.

Bauke Mollema

Buake Mollema does it right. Well done, Mr. Mollema.

The day did not start as well for the team after they missed the first breakaway and had to push their way to the front after the road was blocked with teams content to let a group of ten ride away.

"At the beginning of the stage it was close to not making it [in the break]," said Mollema. "A breakaway went with 10 guys and a lot of teams wanted to block the road, and we were not able to pass, and they took like one and a half minutes.

"Finally, Michael Gogl and Koen De Kort could pass, they went through the grass to get to the front! They did an amazing job, and because of them is why I could win. They kept the speed high in the peloton until the first climb and then I pulled from the bottom. I didn’t get much help, I pulled the whole climb, but finally we got away with 25 guys and could bridge to the five ahead. After that, I had to recover because it was a big effort."

With the breakaway group finally established and the peloton content the gap ballooned to over nine minutes. There was no doubt that the winner of the stage would come from one of the men out front.

Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) was the first to try, gaining over 90 seconds to the rest of the escapees, but his effort and the steep gradient of the ensuing category one climb ended his bid.

It was Mollema's attack, like Martin's he accelerated on a descent, which also seemed headed to the same unsuccessful outcome coming so far from the end. But Mollema persisted, knowing waiting was a bigger guarantee of failure.

"I saw Tony Martin that he also attacked in a small descent earlier, and I knew that I could keep going once I am in the front. When I looked back, and I saw a small gap in that descent I just went all-in from that moment. Alain (Gallopin, director) was motivating me and giving me time gaps.

"I don't think I have ever did so long an attempt at riding alone, it was close, but in the end, I made it. I think this means a lot for the team – we really wanted to go for it today."

"I have never been on the podium in the Tour de France, so this is really special to be there. I have been close a few times in the last five years, and today was just my day. Yeah, I am really happy."

Tony Gallopin was very aggressive in stage 15 and finished 3rd. Here's the report from his Lotto-Soudal team:

Stage fifteen had the perfect profile for a long breakaway to survive until the finish line. When the flag went down, Marcel Sieberg escaped with nine other riders. However, this group was short-lived, as the group fell apart on the first climb of the day after fifteen kilometres, which saw Sieberg drop back to the peloton. On the same climb, a large group with Tiesj Benoot, Thomas De Gendt and Tony Gallopin, jumped away from the peloton. After the first climb, all escaped riders came together in a front group of 28 riders. Their maximum advantage was around nine minutes. Apart from the three Lotto Soudal riders, Tony Martin and Bauke Mollema were also part of this group.

With 65 kilometres remaining, Martin decided to leave the other escapees behind. He started the final category one climb with an advantage of one and a half minutes. However, this was not enough on the steepest parts and he was overhauled by the chasing group. Tiesj Benoot and Tony Gallopin rounded the top with the best climbers from the group. Just after the top, Bauke Mollema escaped and he took an advantage of 45 seconds on the group with Benoot and Gallopin. Tony Gallopin tried to bridge the gap in the finale, together with three other riders, but they never came closer than ten seconds. After a day in the break, Tony Gallopin finished in a nice third place, behind Bauke Mollema and Diego Ulissi, who was also part of the chase group. Tiesj Benoot crossed the finish line in eleventh place. Tim Wellens was hindered by respiratory problems and had to abandon the race after twenty kilometres. Chris Froome keeps his yellow jersey, after being in trouble for a moment. Tomorrow, there is a rest day for the riders.

Tony Gallopin: “Congratulations to Mollema for his performance. He was the driving force in the breakaway and he was very strong on the climbs of first category. Together with Barguil, Roglič and Ulissi, we did everything we could to catch him, but it was almost an impossible task. I had already finished second behind Mollema in the Clásica San Sebastián, so I knew it wouldn’t be easy to catch him.”

“It is unfortunate that I couldn’t sprint for the first place, but I think that this was the maximum for me. I am still feeling well in the Tour after fifteen stages. That gives me a lot of courage for the second week and I hope to follow-up this performance.”

Tiesj Benoot: “We used a lot of energy already in the first hour of the race to form the breakaway. This group of 28 became smaller along the way until a point when Tony Gallopin and I were left in a group of eight riders. Bauke Mollema placed his attack at a surprising moment in the race, but his solo ride was really impressive. On the fourth category climb, I set the pace to keep the gap as small as possible. This was for Tony Gallopin, as he was stronger than me.”

“I think this was the highest result possible for me and I think everyone finished according to their strength. The riders who have finished several Grand Tours in the past, like Gallopin or Ulissi, have more power than me on such moments. I hope that there will be some more chances in the third week for Thomas De Gendt, Tony Gallopin or for me.”

Tim Wellens needed to abandon due to illness.

Tim Wellens: “I had a good night yesterday and I had no fever either, so I hoped that today would go smoother than yesterday and that I would make it to the rest day tomorrow. I quickly sensed that this was not the case and after twenty kilometres, I decided to abandon the race with a respiratory infection.”

“I didn’t want to abandon the race just like that, especially not in the Tour de France, but I had no power left in me at all due to the infection. I came to the Tour with certain expectations, but unfortunately, I was not able live up to them. The heat was not the reason for the abandon, but it was much more due to illness.”

UAE Team Emirates had a good day. Here's the update the team sent me:

UAE Team Emirates’ Diego Ulissi produced an inspirational ride to grab second place on stage 15 and in doing so, recorded the best result for the team on this year’s Tour. The Italian looked full of confidence as he joined the counter-attacking group early on in the race and was successful in the sprint finish, overcoming three other riders in the battle to the finish line.

There was also good news for UAE Team Emirates’ Louis Meintjes, whose result in today’s stage meant a climb up the General Classification standings. The South African now sits in eighth place.

Bauke Mollema (Trek – SegaFredo) recorded his first ever Tour de France stage win, finishing 19 seconds ahead of Ulissi. Chris Froome (Team Sky) retains the Yellow Jersey.

Commenting on his second place finish, Diego Ulissi said: “Mollema started at the top of the climb and we left him too much space. Someone skipped some change and he went away. We tried to chase him but honestly, he had great legs and he was strong. He deserves the win. It’s a shame I got second place but I performed to my maximum. I will try again to get a victory.”

Commenting on is climb in the GC standings, Louis Meintjes said: “It was a very hard day and a very interesting day. We raced pretty aggressively from the start trying to get Diego and Kristijan in the breakaway. I stayed with most of the favourites, but the last 50kms and in the last categorised climb we were also racing in the back and I just managed to stay with the front group. I tried a little bit but didn’t really get away. Only five days left to do something, tomorrow will be another hard day.”

Riders will have the chance to regain energy during Monday’s rest day before the final stages resume on Tuesday. Stage 16 will be one of the most beautiful on the Tour as riders head through the volcanic planes of Massif Central towards the River Rhône. We could see the breakaway take up an early lead with a category three and category four climb in the opening 65km. However, with the second half of the race predominantly downhill, expect the peloton to catch quickly and there to be a fierce end to the race.

Chris Froome goes into the second rest day still in yellow. Here's the report from his Team Sky:

Chris Froome retained the yellow jersey at the Tour de France despite an untimely puncture on stage 15. Froome was forced to to stop and change his rear wheel as the race sprang into life inside the final 40 kilometres, but a brilliant team effort helped the race leader get back on terms with his rivals.

Michal Kwiatkowski quickly put his wheel into Froome’s bike, then Sergio Henao, Vasil Kiryienka and Mikel Nieve all helped to pace Froome back across the 45-second gap that had opened up on the first category Col de Peyra Taillade, before he attacked the final 20 second deficit himself.

Up ahead Mikel Landa dropped back from the group to help Froome bridge the final 50 metres and then the pair worked together on the run to the line in Le Puy-en-Velay, covering numerous attacks to finish together in the GC group.

Nearly seven minutes up the road Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) won the stage from the day’s large breakaway while behind only Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) was able to escape from the GC group and he took back 14 seconds, pushing him above Landa into fifth overall. Froome retains his 18-second advantage over Fabio Aru (Astana) in second place.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome rode with the other contenders during stage 15.

Speaking to ITV after the stage Froome praised the work of his team-mates and talked through the drama. He said: “Never a dull moment in this year’s Tour, that’s for sure. Just coming into the main climb of the day I had a bit of a mechanical problem, I had to change the back wheel, and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time really. It was all hands on deck.

“My team-mates were fantastic again. Kwiato stopped to give me his wheel and the rest of the guys sat up, helped me as much as they could on the climb, and then Mikel Landa just dropped out of the front group to pace me back in over the top of the climb there. I’m hugely grateful that they did all that and managed to keep me in the front group.

“The whole team has been great. Christian Knees and Luke Rowe, from the very beginning, they did the lion share of today’s stage on the front, just controlling things.”

Froome added that he was looking forward to the race’s second rest day: “Dan Martin made a good move to get off the front there and get a few seconds back on some of the guys but all in all I’m just happy to have got through today without any major losses and I think everyone will be looking forward to tomorrow’s rest day. “I’ll pass out tonight - I’m knackered!”

Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford highlighted the team's calmness under pressure. He said: "I think Chris was strong because he was calm. The temptation can be to go too hard too quickly, you panic a little bit, go really really deep to get on too quickly and of course you just explode.

"All of them played their little role there - they all stopped quickly, Kwiato did a great little job as a mechanic, something off the bike rather than on it for once, and then with the experience of the likes of Mikel Nieve… He rode the right tempo, they would have known how far they had to ride, how long was left, the steepness of the climb coming, and Chris is experienced now - he would have been able to gauge that effort.

"Then having Mikel Landa in the front able to drop off, psychologically I think for Chris, being able to see the group and see Mikel dropping off by five or ten seconds - he can focus on his team-mate and be shepherded back in. It was a difficult moment, there’s no denying that, it wasn’t much fun - but I think they managed it superbly well."

Simon Yates is still wearing the best young rider's white jersey. His Orica-Scott team sent me this report:

24-year-old Simon Yates has reached the conclusion of the second week of the Tour de France in seventh place overall and still with the best young rider white jersey he claimed back on stage five.

Today’s stage 15 threatened another shake-up as AG2R La Mondiale rode aggressively to put pressure on the yellow jersey of Chris Froome (Team Sky) and in one moment in the final 40km had distanced the leader.

Yates was attentive and always on the right side of any splits in the main contenders which eventually re-grouped before the ORICA-SCOTT rider attacked on the final climb to try and take some seconds. Ahead, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) took the stage honours from the breakaway.

“I like to race aggressively and today was one of those days I could do that,” Yates said. I was trying to sneak away, like I did the other day, and get some seconds. It didn’t work out, but that’s OK, it’s worth trying and I gave it a go.

“I had good legs and you look at how close the race is. I could have possibly gained 10 seconds, 15 seconds maximum, but I think every second will count when it comes to Paris.”

Chirs Froome and Simon Yates

Simon Yates (white jersey) fnished with Chris Froome's group.

At the conclusion of 15 days of racing Yates sits seventh overall, two-minutes two-seconds behind race leader Froome, and with a three-minute and seven-second lead on nearest white jersey contender Louis Meintjes (USA Emirates).

How it happened:

An early category-one climb set the perfect launch pad for a successful breakaway on stage 15 and it delivered. An initial five-rider move was joined by 23 chasers as the front of the race swelled and began to ride out to a significant advantage.

At its biggest, the breakaway had nine-minutes advantage and with 60km to go Tony Martin (Katusha Alpecin) attacked solo. The final category-one climb proved too difficult for the time trail specialist and he was caught and passed with 35km left to race.

Meanwhile, behind, AG2R La Mondiale put the hammer down on the approach to the last climb and caught the yellow jersey of Froome napping.  The Sky rider recovered only to suffer from a mechanical and be dropped again, needing to use all of his teammates to regain contact in a now elite group of favourites in the peloton.

Yates tried his luck with an attack on the final climb but was heavily marked before Dan Martin (Quickstep Floors) was allowed to slip off the front in the closing kilometres.

At the front, Mollema took a solo victory into Le Puy-en-Velay with Yates and the favourites group crossing the line six-minutes 25seconds down, losing 14 seconds to Marin who finished just ahead.

BMC was on the attack today as well. The team sent me this report:

16 July, 2017, Le Puy-en-Velay (FRA): Stage 15 of the Tour de France saw BMC Racing Team on the attack in multiple breakaways before Nicolas Roche sprinted to sixth place on the stage and Damiano Caruso gained significant time to crack the top ten overall.

Caruso was the first BMC Racing Team rider on the attack, making the initial 10-rider breakaway in the early kilometers of the stage. On the first of four categorized climbs, the category 1 Montée de Naves d'Aubrac, riders began to drop from the breakaway while behind, a 30-rider chase group formed.

Caruso, Serge Pauwels (Team Dimension Data) and Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) went clear in the final kilometers of the climb and Alessandro De Marchi, Amaël Moinard and Nicolas Roche were in the chase group 1'30" behind.

After 60km of racing, the two groups merged to give BMC Racing Team strong representation at the front of the race. The Team Sky-led peloton sat up and allowed the 28-rider group to gain more than seven minutes' advantage.

With it clear the stage winner would come from the breakaway, Tony Martin (Team Katusha-Alpecin) was the first rider to attack from the group but was eventually reeled in on the category 1 Col de Peyra Taillade, which allowed further attacks to play out.

The gradients of the climb and the high pace split the group and Caruso was left to chase an attack from Barguil and Pauwels, before Roche bridged back just before the summit to help with the chase.

The breakaway came back together on the descent and Moinard re-joined the group, before Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo) attacked before the final climb of the day. Multiple chase groups formed behind Mollema but were unable to bring him back and eventually he took the stage win in Le Puy-en-Velay. Roche sprinted to sixth place one minute behind Mollema and Caruso finished a further four seconds back.

Having started the day in 14th place on the General Classification, 11'26" behind race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky), Caruso had gained 5'21" by the time the group of General Classification favorites crossed the line.

Caruso now sits in tenth place, 6'05" behind Froome, heading into the final six stages.

Damiano Caruso: "I hoped there would be a big breakaway and this morning I was motivated to do this. In the end, the breakaway went with good riders. We missed the big goal of the day, the stage win, but of course it was a good result for us because we did a big jump in the GC. Now, finally we have a rest day and we approach the last week really motivated."

"My teammates did a really good job, it was amazing. They helped me to keep the tempo high in the breakaway and in the end, Nicolas Roche was top ten on the stage. It's not a really, really big result because we wanted to win the stage, but it's not bad."

Nicolas Roche: "I think that the particularity of this Tour de France is that there are so few mountain stages that every single one of them is raced flat out, and this one was no different. It was some battle to be in the breakaway. I think the team managed pretty well. At some stage we even had Greg Van Avermaet and Danilo Wyss with us so we almost had six in that group. We fought very hard to be there and I think we raced well. When they attacked us on the last categorized climb we just couldn't follow and we rode as hard as we could, the two of us."

"Damiano Caruso was looking to do two things. When you are at the front you have your fingers crossed that it will work out for the GC but obviously also having a go for the stage win. I think Damiano showed that he was riding very well in the Pyrenees and I think it will be good to have him in a good position in the last two stages in the Alps.

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