Trek Factory Racing played an aggressive role in the 188-kilometer stage 11, from the race start with Bob Jungels joining a four-man breakaway, then at race end with a late surprise attack by Bauke Mollema.
Mollema’s pivotal move with four kilometers remaining gained him enough time at the finish to move him one spot forward in the overall classification into 10th place.
“It was a really hard day with the Col d’Aspin and Tourmalet, two very long and hard climbs. The last climb was not so hard and we did it in training and I knew that I had to go and I just attacked,” Mollema huffed right after he had finished, still breathing heavy from the effort.
How it unfolded
The second day in the Pyrenees had breakaway written all over it, and with many teams starved for results it turned into a huge fight to be in the day’s move.
Bob Jungels jumped into the first promising escape less than five kilometers in, joining three other strong bodies that stayed ahead of the peloton for over 40 kilometers.
But the teams that missed the boat chased furiously, and the quartet gained no more than 45 seconds lead before callously reeled back on the first category three climb.
I wanted to gain some time and I hoped that a couple of guys would come with me, but that didn’t happen.
It set off more aggressiveness and the relentless pace continued until finally seven riders snapped the elastic and the peloton eased off the accelerator.
Trek Factory Racing tossed out their best card early in Jungels, and with the Col d’Aspin and Col du Tourmalet looming on the horizon in the 188-kilometer mountain stage, and the last uphill, the six-kilometer Côte de Cauterets, topping out a three kilometers from the finish, the team already played their prime hand for a stage win.
But there was still Bauke Mollema and the GC battle.
There was no desire from the GC teams to use any energy to chase back the escape group with another hors catégorie summit finish in tomorrow’s stage 12, and the men out front had free rein to gallop.
Bob Jungels rode strongly in early breakaway.
As expected the Col du Tourmalet pared down both the breakaway group and the peloton. One rider - Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) – rode away from the rest of his escape mates while the peloton was whittled to an elite group of riders, including Bauke Mollema.
Majka held a solid five-minute advantage over the final six-kilometer climb to take the stage victory.
Behind the select GC group rode steadily up the final climb until the final kilometer where a feisty Mollema launched a surprise attack.
“I felt pretty good and so I attacked on the steepest part of the climb,” added Mollema. “I wanted to gain some time and I hoped that a couple of guys would come with me, but that didn’t happen. The final four kilometers was pretty long and I was alone and I just kept pushing full gas to the finish.”
Mollema crossed the line in 7th place, 10 seconds ahead of the yellow jersey group, and one minute ahead of 10th place Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). It was enough to leapfrog Mollema over Nibali into 10th, a promising sign ahead of the tough summit finish Thursday to Plateau de Beille.
Mollema concluded, “At one point there were 10 guys left and I was still there, and that is a good sign. This is very optimistic; I hope that yesterday was just an off day. I am just in the top 10 now, and there is still a long way to Paris. Really I just have to look at it day by day; I hope to finish minimum top 10 and hopefully a little bit better.”