Mollema secures stage 15 victory at Tour de France

Mollema secures stage 15 victory at Tour de France

Frenchman Bardet stays in third, 23 seconds behind, while fourth-placed Colombia rider Rigoberto Uran of Cannondale trails Froome by 29 seconds.

The Quick-Step Floors rider, still feeling the effects of a stage nine crash, picked up 13 seconds to move above Landa into fifth, now 72 seconds off yellow. He struggled badly on Thursday's Pyrenean stage, falling out of overall contention and when he was dropped early on Friday by the peloton, he chose to call it quits.

This year's race has shown that big time gaps over a single stage are nearly impossible to gain amongst the leaders, meaning they must seize every opportunity that comes along, no matter how small.

"I panicked a bit", the three-time Tour victor said.

"It's thanks to my team-mates for dropping out of that front group and helping me to get back, especially Mikel Landa who dropped out of the front group in the last kilometre there to help me get back".

German sprinter Marcel Kittel steered clear of trouble and claimed the stage in a sprint finish, taking his tally to five stage wins since the race started.

Froome suffered a mechanical problem 50km from the end of the 189.5km 15th stage from Laissac-Severac l'Eglise to Le Puy en Velay that saw him drop 50 seconds behind his main rivals at one point. "We'd be ready for that", said Froome, adding that his team is "not going to allow anyone to come back on GC [General Classification]".

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Trek-Segafredo's Mollema attacked on the descent of the Peyra Taillade, and held off a chasing group of Warren Barguil, Primoz Roglic, Diego Ulissi, and Tony Gallopin over the final categorised climb, the Cote de Saint-Vidal. "That's what I really like as a rider, is to fight three weeks in a row and give everything every day", Mollema said.

I've worked for it so hard in the last few years. That was a big goal for me.

As the Tour de France enters its final week, the 2,500-mile race is coming down to nerves and seconds, which makes Daniel Martin's current strategy of some interest.

"There is a lot of trust, no doubt, no question", Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford said after the stage when asked about Landa's ambition. Barguil covered the distance in 2 1/2 hours, half the time of some of the Tour's longer stages with twice as much road to cover.

Since then though, Martin has chipped away at the time gap earned by the leaders as he looks to become the first Irish cyclist to reach the podium on the Champs Elysees since Roche's win 30 years ago.

"Kwiatkowski is sharp, super sharp, and I guarantee he'd have made the call and he did well", Brailsford said. "It is the biggest win of my career".

Stage 15 features some breathtaking scenic beauty on its route in the Aubrac and also has the category 1 col de Peyra-Taillade, which is an unparalleled route of the Tour de France.

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