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"I had to go really deep there and never recovered.  I saw my heart rate was really high - much higher than the last days - and I just couldn’t get the power on the pedals to push."

Photo: A.S.O.

BAUKE MOLLEMA

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BOB JUNGELS

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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22.07.2015 @ 19:38 Posted by Andy Pedersen

The day following the rest day is always precarious, and Wednesday’s stage 17 at the Tour de France was again testament to that. Bauke Mollema struggled midway through the 161-kilometer stage, and if not for the help of his teammates, notably Bob Jungels, he may have lost his grip on the top 10 in the general classification.

 

“In the beginning I was feeling really good, actually,” Mollema explained. “But when [Alberto] Contador attacked on the category two climb, I had to close a gap and since then I never was feeling good again. I had to go really deep there and never recovered.  I saw my heart rate was really high – much higher than the last days – and I just couldn’t get the power on the pedals to push."

 

A large 28-man breakaway led the race from early on and for the top rungs of GC it presented no threat. However, when the gap suddenly doubled on the penultimate climb, Col d’Allos, to over nine minutes, Matthias Frank (IAM Cycling) posed an immediate danger to Bauke Mollema’s GC, forcing Trek Factory Racing to pull hard behind to minimize the damage.

 

“All the time the break had just 3, 4, 5 minutes,” continued Mollema. “Suddenly the peloton slowed down and within 10kms they had 4-5 minutes more so I don’t know what happened in the front. Then at the bottom of the Col d’Allos we pulled a little bit so not to lose more time and I think that was a good job from the boys. I knew Frank would pass me, but thanks to the great effort of the team today I didn’t drop in GC.”

 

Halfway up Team Astana assumed the reins from Trek Factory Racing, upped the pace further, and shattered what remained of the peloton. 

 

Seeing Mollema in trouble, Bob Jungels immediately fell back to pace his leader; although they would never rejoin the front, Jungels led Mollema over the top, safely down the dangerous descent, and up the final six-kilometer climb to the finish in Pra Loup.

 

“On the second to last climb I was not feeling good and I had to drop off the pace.  From then on it was really hard to the finish. I really have to thank Bob, he stayed with me in the climb and descent and in the last climb especially, so to not lose too much time. He did a really amazing job!” Mollema said.

 

“It was not a good day for me today. It’s too bad because I lost time on most of the favorites and Frank passed me too. Even though I stayed the same in GC I am not happy about today - tomorrow better!”

 

Mollema and Jungels crossed the line in 34th and 35th places, losing slightly over three minutes to the top GC favorites that numbered only four. It was a rough day for many.  By the top of Col d’Allos, only five of the strongest riders remained including the yellow jersey of Chris Froome.  On the descent, Alberto Contador crashed, and he lost more than two minutes by the finish.

 

Earlier in the stage Tejay van Garderen, third overall, was forced to quit the Tour de France, a result of illness. And Laurent Didier, who has battled everyday to stay in the race and give what he could to help the team, finally surrendered to the bronchitis he has been fighting since the first rest day and did not start the stage.

 

There are three more hard days in the Alps ahead. Looking at what has transpired so far in this year’s Tour, there is no doubt the race is finished.

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