For the second straight day, Bauke Mollema jumped into the breakaway, giving Trek-Segafredo representation again at the front of the race as the Tour de France winds down to its last days.
Unlike Thursday's stage 18, the parcours of stage 19, the longest of this year's Tour at 222 kilometers, did not suit the lanky climber, but Mollema did what he could when the breakaway began to shift from cohesion to dissonance, starting on the final category-three climb 45 kilometers from the end.
"Actually I wasn't feeling so good in the start, and I jumped once, and I was immediately in the decisive break. I found myself in a large group with a lot of fast guys and with this kind of finish, that was obviously not ideal for me," explained Mollema. "I knew it would be difficult to win. I tried a few times on the last climb and in the finale, but in the end, the group split up, and unfortunately I was in the second part."
The 20 men that formed the day's escape included Edvald Boasson-Hagen (Dimension Data), arguably the fastest legs in the mix, and despite numerous attacks on the final categorized climb of the Tour, no one could break the group apart, or shed the faster men.
The relentless attacks continued until finally the elastic - already frayed thin with many tired legs after 18 stages of hard racing - snapped and the breakaway split in two.
Mollema found himself on the wrong side of the separation, and despite immediately trying to bridge across, then helping desperately as the second group chased, it was to no avail: the horsepower was evident up front, and the barn door beckoned: only 15 kilometers remained, and the move was motivated.
"The last climb was not hard enough, it was four percent gradient, so yeah it was not steep enough to drop the fast guys," added Mollema. "I think everybody worked well together the whole day, everyone did his pulls, and in the end, I think the 10 fastest guys, they got away."
Boasson-Hagen never did wait for the sprint. He attacked in the final two kilometers and soloed to the win, while the rest of the breakaway arrived for the minor placings.
The peloton, including Alberto Contador and the remaining Trek-Segafredo teammates, arrived safely over 12 minutes later. For once, there was only one race out on the road during stage 18, and the bunch had a long, tedious day to ride through, a rare day to simply get to the end.