Bauke Mollema tamed a frantic day at the Tour de France 2021 to claim a strong solo victory on stage 14.
The Dutchman made it into the day's main breakaway, which formed inside the final 90km of the 183.7km day after a relentless fight by riders to escape the peloton, and attacked the 14-man leading group on a descent with 42km to go.
Mollema then powered away to grow his advantage to almost a minute before the final climb, and eventually crossed the summit of the category two Col de Saint Louis with over a minute on those in pursuit; a quartet of Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation), Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mattia Cattaneo (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), and Sergio Higuita (EF-Nippo).
There was little they could do to close the cap to Mollema in the final 10km, with the advantage out at 1-20 as the lone leader powered on towards the line.
Mollema was able to take the time to celebrate his victory in Quillan, his second career stage win at the Tour and Trek-Segafredo's first since 2018.
Konrad managed take second in the sprint from the next group with Higuita taking third.
Almost seven minutes behind, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) safely held onto his yellow jersey lead with no moves from the main peloton. Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), thanks to his presence in the main breakaway, jumps to second overall after finishing just 1-28 down on Mollema.
How it happened
The Tour de France hit the foothills of the Pyrenees on stage 14, with a climbing aperitif ahead of the mountain stages to come.
The profile screamed breakaway; the 183.7km route from Carcassonne to Quillan peppered with five short, but tough categorised climbs that would suit those climbers with more of a kick.
Job one for almost every team with no GC interest would be to get someone into the breakaway, and that became easier said than done with a hectic opening 80km or so that saw one five-man break get around 30 seconds, but ultimately succumb to the relentless attacks coming from the peloton.
Following the intermediate sprint with 107km to go, we eventually saw some riders begin to stay away, with Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious) getting an advantage on the first category two climb.
Those two were interested in collecting mountains points along the way, but were pursued by an eight-man group which was then being followed further down the road by a four-man group of French riders. The peloton at this point was only around two minutes behind, but looked willing to now allow the breakaway to form and stay away.
Those three groups finally came together on the category three Côte de Galinagues with around 60km to go, meaning we had a leading breakaway of 14 riders, which included, along with Woods and Poels: Mattia Cattaneo (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Esteban Chaves (BikeExchange), Louis Meintjes (Intermarche), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Sergio Higuita (EF-Nippo), Omar Fraile (Astana), Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Élie Gesbert (Arkéa-Samsic), Pierre Rolland, and Quentin Pacher (both B&B).
That group worked well together to pull out a gap of over four minutes to the peloton, but on the penultimate climb of the day, Mollema was clearly not happy with the work of the group and went on the attack on the long descent with 42km to go.
Once he was gone, he never looked back, and there was no immediate response from his former breakaway companions.
He slowly eked out his advantage and was closing in on a minute to the chasing group (over five to the peloton) as he hit the final climb, the Col de Saint Louis.
There were numerous attacks from the group behind which was now lacking any cohesion as Mollema continued to single-mindedly ride as hard as he could. Eventually a group of four - Higuita, Konrad, Woods, and Cattaneo - split from the rest in pursuit of Mollema, but as he crossed the summit his lead was growing and it looked increasingly likely he would solo to the win.
That was affirmed as he maintained his pace on the descent and flat roads in the final 20km, with the chasing four unable to make any inroads. Mollema was eventually able to ease to the line and celebrate his second career victory at the Tour de France, with Konrad taking second from Higuita 1-04 behind.
In the GC group, there were no attacks or threats to the yellow jersey Tadej Pogacar, but there is a new second place overall after Guillaume Martin jumped from ninth overall to 4-04 behind the race leader thanks to his presence in the breakaway. EF Education-Nippo did briefly increase the pace in the peloton to protect Rigoberto Urán's GC interest, but seemed content to let the Frenchman move into second with a number of brutal climbing stages to come in the third week.
The Tour de France hits the Pyrenees in earnest on stage 15, with the race crossing into Andorra for a summit finish at Andorra la Vella.
Tour de France 2021, stage 14: Carcassonne to Quillan (183.7km)
1. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, in 4-16-16
2. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-04
3. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Education-Nippo, at same time
4. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 1-06
5. Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 1-10
6. Omar Fraile (Esp) Astana-Premier Tech, at 1-25
7. Élie Gesbert (Fra) Team Arkéa-Samsic
8. Quentin Pacher (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
9. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, all at same time
10. Esteban Chaves (Col) Team BikeExchange, at 1-28
11. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 1-28
18. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 6-53
General classification after stage 14
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 56-50-21
2. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 4-04
3. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education-Nippo, at 5-18
4. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 5-32
5. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5-33
6. Ben O'Connor (Aus) Ag2r-Citroën, at 5-58
7. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6-16
8. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech, at 6-30
9. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 7-11
10. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 9-48
Richard began working with Cycling Weekly in 2013 alongside the then web editor, Nigel Wynn. Taking over as digital editor or Cycling Weekly and mbr in 2014, Richard coordinates site content and strategy with the team.
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