The short but sharp uphill finish to the 198.5-kilometer stage 13 at the Tour de France presented another tricky ending, one where the GC contenders had to be on their toes to avoid any time loss.
Trek Factory Racing was attentive, moving Bauke Mollema upward in the peloton in the final five kilometers to be in good position for a finish he normally favors when disaster struck. He endured a late puncture and with the peloton at full speed, rushing toward the finish, there was zero chance to rejoin.
Prior to 2005, Mollema would have grieved a substantial time loss, but since then the one kilometer ruling - that if a rider suffers a fall or mechanical in the final kilometer he would receive the same time as the group he was with - was extended to three kilometers.
Mollema’s puncture occurred with two kilometers remaining.
I got a bike change, which is faster than a wheel change, but we didn’t have to go full gas to the finish anymore because of the three-kilometer rule.
“The finish climb is one that I like a lot, and I wanted to try to do something on it as I knew there could be gaps,” explained Mollema about the tricky finish. “We were moving up in the last five kilometers and with two kilometers to go I had a flat tire. I got a bike change, which is faster than a wheel change, but we didn’t have to go full gas to the finish anymore because of the three-kilometer rule.”
Stage 13 was the first in a series of transition stages as the Tour de France heads toward the Alps. Although on paper it looked to be an unassuming stage, the hot weather combined with a constant up and down course made for a less than relaxing day in the saddle.
The second half of the nearly 200-kilometer parcours had a few nasty uncategorized climbs - enough to pare down the peloton of its most fatigued - and a breakaway led the race from the start to a mere 300 meters from the finish making for a fast-paced affair.
Gregory Rast worked hard to keep the team hydrated during the hot stage 13.
In an edge-of-seat ending Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) powered past the last relics from the day’s breakaway and just held off Peter Sagan to win the uphill battle to the line.
The day was uneventful for Trek Factory Racing until Bauke Mollema punctured in the finale giving the team a brief moment of panic. A new Trek bike was quickly produced off the team car, but it all happened within the three-kilometer ‘safety net’ thwarting misfortune. Mollema was given the same time as the leading group of 10 riders that arrived at the finish, containing all the GC favorites, and there was no change to the top of the leaderboard.
“The day was harder than expected,” Mollema continued. “The break was really strong today, and it was never easy in the peloton, and the parcours looked pretty flat, but it was never flat! It was always up and down and short climbs, so it was a hard day especially with the heat. It’s too bad I missed trying in the finale, but on the good side we were lucky it did not happen one kilometer earlier.”