Friday, 18 August, 2017

Froome recovers from near-disaster to hold yellow, Mollema wins stage 15

Netherlands Bauke Mollema celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win Stage 15 of the Tour de France on Sunday. Peter Dejong  AP Netherlands Bauke Mollema celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win Stage 15 of the Tour de France on Sunday. Peter Dejong AP
Terence Owen | 17 July, 2017, 16:27

Race leader Chris Froome survived a scare on a gruelling 15th stage of the Tour de France.

Sergio Henao and Mikel Nieve paced Froome up the early inclines, but after they pulled off he had to go alone before Landa dropped back from the front group to finish the job still three kilometres from the summit of the 8.3km climb.

Dutchman Mollema attacked from the remnants on the breakaway in the closing stages of the 189.5 kilometre ride from Laissac-Severac L'Eglise to take his first career Tour win.

"I knew it was a lot of downhill to the finish, so I knew if I got a gap it would be hard to come back", Martin said. Stage victor Bauke Mollema was named most aggressive rider of the day and will wear a red bib number during Tuesday's stage. Had he not been caught up in the crash which did for Richie Porte en route to Chambéry and lost 1min 15sec, the Irishman would have been an immediate threat to Chris Froome's yellow jersey; instead he is engaged in his own personal pursuit race, gaining time when the tiniest opening beckons.

Others might have crumbled, but Froome showed a rock-solid performance that carried him to three Tour de France titles so far. "I had to get back by the top of that climb or it was game over for me". "Kwaitkowski gave me his wheel because the team auto was far away.We did all we could to return to the top of the race".

As a result, the top of the overall standings remains unchanged, Froome leading by 18 seconds from Astana's Fabio Aru with Bardet a further seven seconds back.

Ahead of Monday's second rest day, Martin saw one final opportunity to lessen the gap, and he did so by finishing 14 seconds clear of Froome on Sunday's stage.

"I've got to thanks my team-mates yet again for helping me".

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"I really think I had the legs to win today".

Team Sky's Dave Brailsford said Chris Froome's mechanical problem on stage 15 could have ended his challenge, but the team reacted perfectly to the crisis.

The big name to lose more time was Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who came in 46th place and at 10m 19s.

Dan Martin is on course to record the best finish of an Irish cyclist in the Tour de France since his uncle Stephen Roche won the race in 1987. Mikel Landa (Spain / Team Sky) +1:17'; 7.

"Kwiatkowski is sharp, super sharp, and I guarantee he'd have made the call and he did well", Brailsford said.

"I was really busting the whole race and the only time I could really find to stop and have a piss was on the climb".

"It couldn't have come at a worst time". Strangely enough, Aru didn't seem to get much help from his team and left on an island, Froome would sail past him to retake the lead and the yellow jersey.

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