Trek-Segafredo goes all-in ahead of the second rest day as Porte moves closer to the top 10 overall.
Today will be out of control.
Those were the words uttered by Trek-Segafredo director Kim Andersen ahead of stage 15, and when a large 36-man breakaway finally formed in the early part of the 185-kilometer race, his words rang true. It included many of the general classification hopefuls whose hopes had dashed: pre-race favorite Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was there with two teammates, and Trek-Segafredo – eager to play into the chaos – placed Bauke Mollema, Giulio Ciccone, and Julien Bernard in the mix.
The race was on!
After stage 14, Trek-Segafredo’s focus had turned. The team was now seeking to grab any and all opportunities presented in search of victory, but Mollema’s legs quickly ceded to the pace over the climbs. The lanky Dutch climber was feeling his effort of yesterday after he went deep in support of Richie Porte.
“Well, apparently, today was not my day,” said Mollema. “I wanted to try something, and I managed to get in the breakaway, but then I immediately felt it wasn’t going to be for me today because I was quickly at the limit when there were accelerations in our group. I quickly decided to let it go and to focus on the next days. After yesterday, it was clear that my focus would be to go for stages. There are still six stages to go, and I will try to get the best out of them.”
While Mollema dropped back, ahead, Julien Bernard put in one last attack on the penultimate climb as the gap to the peloton dipped below five minutes. It was an effort that injected some gas back into the breakaway, but Ciccone was unable to follow through. The Italian did not have the power to go with the leaders, still feeling his crash in stage 11, which almost ended his first Tour.
The stage win was out of the picture for Trek-Segafredo. That went to Simon Yates (Mitchelton Scott), best of the breakaway, while behind the battle in the GC race exploded again.
Crossing the line in 10th place, Richie Porte gained another small morale victory. Porte held on when the big hitters’ accelerations splintered the group on the final climb, and he was able to stay with Geraint Thomas’ (Team Ineos) late attack until the last hundreds of meters.
I had a better day today; it was a nice result. I am happy to just keep chipping away at it. Guys are cracking - yesterday was so hard, and same as today. I couldn’t quite hold on to those last guys or G, who are most likely going to be the guys fighting for the win. Certainly, yesterday I popped, but I didn’t totally go into the red.
- Richie Porte
Porte moved into 11th place in the GC while other rivals faltered, including race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) who exposed his first major crack. It all revealed a podium still up for grabs and a top 10 of GC that will undoubtedly go through a metamorphosis before Paris.
“The race is certainly not over,” agreed Porte. “Yesterday they had Alaphilippe written as the winner. I think the journalists maybe follow maybe the Tour, and they don’t follow the other races, but I mean it’s far from over.
“Get through the rest day and the next two days as well and the last three mountain stages it’s really going to be on. I think Team Ineos is nowhere near as strong as they have been, so it might come down to every man for himself, really. The Alps are hard and throw in the altitude – it’s going to be a great race.”