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“Fifth place is no victory, but I am happy that I could show for the teammates that they didn’t work for nothing.”

Photo: Sirotti








20.07.2015 @ 21:40 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Bob Jungels pedaled his way to a notable fifth place in the 201-kilometer stage 16 at the Tour de France, while some 18 minutes later Bauke Mollema crossed the line with the small yellow jersey group of favorites to move up one spot in the overall classification.


Monday’s race was the last of the transition stages and also marked the last opportunity for a breakaway to fight out a stage win ahead of four decisive days in the Alps beginning Wednesday.  


Jungels had red-circled stage 16 as a day he wanted to fight for a stage win and in the end he fell just short, arriving 40 seconds behind Rubén Plaza (Lampre-Merida) for 5th place. 



“I was there for the victory today again. It feels real good to be up there with the best.  I knew before the stage already that I could make it to the break, but that it would be hard because of the heat. I am suffering pretty badly from the heat,” Jungels said. “I also felt the heat in the last climb, but I think I managed well to go in my own rhythm and then come back at the top where it was a little more windy and flatter so I could play again with my power. I think that was not a bad decision.”


The day began with a 12-man group that included Jungels, chased by another large group with Markel Irizar and Laurent Didier. Unfortunately Didier, who on the first rest day was riddled with the same flu that has felled many, has not yet returned to full strength and fell off the pace.  But Irizar joined Jungels as the two groups merged and the breakaway swelled to 23 men.


“It was a really strange situation,” Jungels continued, “we were 12 guys in front and no one wanted the group behind to come back, but they were pulling really hard. It was actually good, though, to have Markel there, especially for the attacks of Hansen and Haller at the end, and he pulled hard.”



When the 23 began the final 9-kilometer climb they had more than 19 minutes in hand; there was no doubt the victor would come from the select group and the pace was fierce from the bottom.


The breakaway group exploded and Jungels slipped backwards in the first kilometers as five men broke clear. But he calculated his effort perfectly and gradually closed the gap to a four-rider group ahead. 


Plaza, who had attacked earlier, already had a 30-second lead when the Jungels-led group latched to the Sagan-led quartet to form nine chasers.


Plaza increased his lead to an insurmountable 55 seconds by the crest of the climb and held off a kamikazed Sagan chase to take the win by 30 seconds. Jungels arrived 10 seconds later for a respectable fifth place.



“I gotta say that in the downhill I did not feel so comfortable because I knew it from last year at the Dauphine where I crashed pretty bad.  It was pretty much the same [race] situation today," Jungels said.


“My first top 5 in the Tour is not so bad, so I am pretty happy about that.  I think it’s hard to say if the last two days of being in the breakaway took something from me – I have recovered pretty well. You always lose some power, but in the end it didn’t really change that much.


“Fifth place is no victory, but I am happy that I could show for the teammates that they didn’t work for nothing.”


As the breakaway arrived at the finish, lower down the slopes the heated GC battle raged.  Bauke Mollema held tough over the first punishing kilometers that, similar to the breakaway, blew apart the peloton.



Mollema described the action on the climb: “I knew the climb from 2011 and 2013, but the bottom was different – steeper – because we took a different road.  The first 2-3kms I was on the limit and that is where the difference was made and [Tony] Gallopin was dropped and also some other guys. But for the last 5kms I was pretty comfortable in the group, there was a little bit of headwind so it was not too hard to stay there, and then I was just keeping an eye on the other GC guys.


“I knew it would be hard on this last climb and that the GC guys would attack and also that the descent was pretty tricky, so it was no surprise. In the end, we had only 10 guys over the top, and still some guys kept fighting for positions on the descent instead of just going down with no stress. I guess they want to be in 4th or 5th place instead of 9th or 10th and that’s why you get those crashes.”


Mollema stuck with the yellow jersey group to the finish and was rewarded with another step upward in the leaderboard, slotting into 9th place ahead of the second rest day tomorrow and the last mountain stages before the final day in Paris.



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