Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka was in the heart of the action again on stage 15 of Tour de France with Serge Pauwels on the attack the whole day.
On paper, today’s stage looked like a good opportunity for a strong break to make it all the way. Therefore, it was no surprise to see countless attacks in the opening kilometers. Pauwels was very attentive. He covered all the dangerous moves and was always at the front of the race. At the end, 28 riders managed to distance the peloton.
The big breakaway established a huge gap on the pack who didn’t seem too concerned about the riders at the front. With 40 km to go, as the break started on the last steep climb of the day, the gap was over nine minutes. Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) attacked on the steep gradients with only Pauwels able to follow the pace. At the top, a handful of riders bridged across and it was now clear that the winner of the stage would be one of the riders in this group.
Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) was the first rider to take his chance. He attacked with just over 25 km to go. At first, he didn’t get much of a gap but gradually, the distance widened. At the end, Mollema managed to hold off the chase group and solo to victory, while Pauwels crossed the line in 10th place and moved up to 22nd in the general classification. Chris Froome (Team Sky) still leads the race overall.
Tomorrow, the riders will be able to enjoy a well-deserved rest day before Tour de France continues with another lumpy stage on Tuesday.
“I attacked from kilometer zero today. At first, the peloton didn’t give us much of a gap but then, when over 20 riders joined us at the front, we finally got away. I was feeling good all day but I didn’t really have the needed kick to accelerate on the last small climbs. Ultimately, I think Mollema was the strongest at the front. I’m happy with my performance. We will try again soon”.