Tour de France, Stage 15

Remigio Civitarese
Luglio 17, 2017

Reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome pulled off a remarkable recovery act to retain his hold on the yellow jersey, as Bauke Mollema claimed a first victory on an engrossing 15th stage.

"We've got a lot of faith in Mikel, and I think that he showed today that he's a real threat now for the overall title in Paris", said the 32-year-old. Stage victor Bauke Mollema was named most aggressive rider of the day and will wear a red bib number during Tuesday's stage. "That's what we saw I think today with Quintana losing a lot of time again, so that's a really hard combination".

"I panicked a bit", the three-time Tour victor said.

But by then AG2R's brown and blue cohorts were flagging too in the huge heat, and Froome - ignoring some boos from what appeared to be a few fans on the climb - could, at last, latch onto the back end of the group. Michal Kwiatkowski stopped and gave me his wheel because the team vehicle was far behind'. They've all been around the block a few times, and maybe when they were younger in their earlier 20s, it would've taken some time. Federer was, as he'd been all tournament, flawless, the first man in 41 years to win Wimbledon without ceding a set.

Despite riding in support of Chris Froome, Landa has been impressive in mountain stages and was stronger than Froome last week in the Pyrenees when the Team Sky leader struggled in the ascent to Peyragudes.

Froome now leads the race by 19sec from Aru with Romain Bardet third at 23sec having also lost four seconds to Froome in the finish, although gained two on the yellow jersey.

Landa is now up to fifth overall, just 1 minute 9 seconds behind Astana's Aru, who leads Froome by 6 seconds.

"It's a big loss for me and the whole team", admitted Aru, who had already seen another team-mate in Dario Cataldo crash out on Wednesday.

"I just gave it a try in the last 30km".

"We don't know if the strategy of Sky the other day was purposely to let Landa up the road to have a plan B, or was it because of some internal discussions we'll never know about?" he said.

Then, on the penultimate stage, comes a 22.5km time trial in Marseille, where many predict Froome will post a time substantially better than his GC rivals.

His rivals are now smelling blood, especially with two other big names - Spain's Alberto Contador and Colombian Nairo Quintana out of contention.

Sunday's 189.5km stage is perhaps the most lovely on this year's race, which organisers believe will showcase "exceptional landscapes that highlight the charm of France" as it passes through the stunning Massif Central mountain range.

"Mollema started at the top of the climb and we left him too much space", Ulissi said.

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