Bauke Mollema attacked his breakaway group and soloed the final 27 kilometers to take home the biggest win of his career in stage 15 of the Tour de France 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,” said Mollema.
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.
“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 time in the last five years, and today was just my day. Yeah, I am really happy.”
Second Place for Ulissi
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.
“Mollema started at the top of the climb and we left him too much space,” said Ulissi. “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.”
Lott0-Soudal grabs third
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.
Tony Gallopin: “Congratulations to Mollema for his performance,” Gallopin commented. “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,” he concluded.
Daniel Martin Moves Up:
Daniel Martin (Quick-Step Floors) started the day in sixth in the General Classification, but was attentive and responded to all the moves before launching an attack of his own with less than ten kilometers to go and forging a gap. Under the 5km banner, the 30-year-old linked up with a couple of riders from the day’s breakaway and dug deep at the front, driving that group home 14 seconds clear of his opponents, including the yellow jersey.
“Everybody was on their limit on the last two climbs, and it’s really no surprise, as this week has been brutal. After the last ascent, I noticed how tired everyone was and how they kept looking at each other, so I said to give it a try,” said Martin. “Can’t say the plan at the start of the day was to attack, I just seized the opportunity. I am happy with my legs and now I’m looking forward to the rest day. After this, we’ll see what the last week holds and what I can do in the Alps.”
Martin’s performance at the finish Le Puy-en-Velay allowed him to climb one place in the general classification, to fifth, just 1:12 behind overall leader Chris Froome (Team Sky).
Stage 15 Brief Results:
- Bauke Mollema (Netherlands / Trek-Segafredo) 4:41:47″
- Diego Ulissi (Italy / UAE Team Emirates) +19″
- Tony Gallopin (France / Lotto-Soudal)
- Primoz Roglic (Slovenia / LottoNL-Jumbo)
- Warren Barguil (France / Team Sunweb) +23″
- Nicolas Roche (Ireland / BMC Racing Team) +1:00″
- Lilian Calmejane (France / Direct Energie) +1:04″
- Jan Bakelants (Belgium / AG2R La Mondiale)
- Thibaut Pinot (France / FDJ)
- Serge Pauwels (Belgium / Team Dimension Data)
General Classification After Stage 15:
- Chris Froome (Britain / Team Sky) 64:40:21″
- Fabio Aru (Italy / Astana Pro Team) +18″
- Romain Bardet (France / AG2R La Mondiale) +23″
- Rigoberto Uran (Colombia / Cannondale-Drapac) +29″
- Daniel Martin (Ireland / Quick-Step Floors) +1:12″
- Mikel Landa (Spain / Team Sky) +1:17″
- Simon Yates (Britain / Orica-Scott) +2:02″
- Louis Meintjes (South Africa / UAE Team Emirates) +5:09″
- Alberto Contador (Spain / Trek-Segafredo) +5:37″
- Damiano Caruso (Italy / BMC Racing Team) +6:05″