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Drama for Chris Froome as Bauke Mollema goes solo to win Stage 15 of the Tour de France 2017

Bauke Mollema timed his attack to go away to the stage win at the 2017 Tour de France; despite attacks & drama Chris Froome retained yellow

Jack Elton-Walters
16 Jul 2017

Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) went solo to the win on Stage 15 of the 2017 Tour de France. He hit out on his own on a descent and held off the chase of four rivals to cross the line and win his first Tour stage.

Back in the General Classication group there were plenty of fireworks earlier in the stage but it was stalemate by the finish line.

Chris Froome (Team Sky) retained the race lead despite looking in trouble a number of times throughout the stage.

The top five, on paper, was just as it had been at the start of the day but the varying levels of energy expended by those in contention for the final yellow jersey could show when the race restarts out the other side of the rest day.

Daniel Martin (Quick-Step Floors) was the last to attack from the GC group and caught up with some stragglers from the earlier breakaway.

Those riders worked with the Irishman for a time but the Mikel Landa (Team Sky) led group chased hard all the way to the finish line to limit the time gain.

Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) sprinted away from his group to pick up some minor green jersey points in his effort to close the gap to Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors).

Another Team Sunweb rider, Simon Geschke, was more than happy to pull on the front for D.Martin, and the effort was enough to move the Quick-Step rider up in the top 10 at the expense of Landa.

In the end, Froome even led the contenders' group over the line but could not cause a time-gaining split.

Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) and Fabio Aru (Astana) may never get a chance like that again to overhaul Froome and win their first Tour de France.

Stage 15 at the 2017 Tour de France: Hectic, quiet and then very hectic

Early moves, as usual, went from the flag drop. A group got away and other groups and individual riders tried to chase.

For a time, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) worked hard to leave the yellow jersey group and join one of the grouos up the road. But not sooner did he appear to be in touch but he'd dropped back to the group of overall contenders.

Despite his deficit to the lead aleady over five minutes, Contador is still a rider the other teams are weary of letting go up the road.

In the lead group it was the polka dot jersey of Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) who was driving the pace as he sought to extend his lead in the mountains classification.

Back in the main peloton Team Sky lined out on the front of the bunch in usual fashion to control the race, likely warranting a collection grumble from anyone wanting a more interesting Grand Tour to watch.

Up front in the lead group of 28 riders was serial breakaway attendee Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal). He was active in the group as he chased either a stage win or the mountains classification, or both.

As the peloton went through the feedzone the gap to the front of the race went out to 6:30 with 105km left to race, but soon dropped back below six minutes once the riders had finished their jam sandwiches.

Matthews, the previous day's winner, took the points at the intermediate sprint after his teammate Geschke set the pace up to the line.

With Kittel - the current wearer of the green jersey - out the back, the Australian closed the gap on his rival which sets up a more interesting final week in the points competition compared to the last few years.

After a lull in the action and the profile of the stage, the gap between the front of the breakaway and the yellow jersey was out to 7:14 with 80km left to the finish line.

Tony Martin goes it alone

Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) shook things up when, 65km from the finish line, he rode away from the large escape group and soon had an advantage over a minute.

The group behind then started working together to try and bring him back and stop him from getting too far ahead before the next first category climb, but Martin soon had 1:15 on his chasers and 9:20 on the peloton containing Froome.

Froome in trouble and exposed

There were fireworks in the peloton when almost the entire AG2R La Mondiale squad went wild on the front and gapped Froome and his domestiques.

Froome was left almost isolated with only Mikel Nieve nearby, who he had strong words with as they got back across the split.

No sooner was the yellow jersey just about in touch with the Bardet group again after a huge effort of his own, he was out the back with a puncture.

Michal Kwiatkowski handed over his rear wheel to his team leader, but arguably the Pole would have been a stronger ally than the already worn out Sergio Henao or Vasil Kiryienka.

With a new wheel and three teammates, the Team Sky leader began the task of getting back on terms. A huge effort from AG2R's Oliver Naesen dragged the gap out over half a minute.

Along with Bardet in the forward split were Contador, D. Martin, Landa, Uran, Aru, Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates). But not Froome.

There were dropped riders in varying sized groups all over the first category climb forcing Froome and his workers to negotiate overtakes on the narrow road with still around 5km to the summit.

Away up the road, Barguil wiped out T. Martin's advantage with a stinging effort and later crossed the summit first to further his lead in the mountains classification.

As the polka dots passed, the German time triallist was zig-zagging across the road and soon passed by more of his former breakaway companions.

Put in trouble by the pace set by AG2R, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) latched onto the back from the four man Froome group but was soon out the back of those chasers too.

Nieve did what he could but wasn't able to stay with the pace all the way to the back of the Bardet group. Froome had to take it up himself, again, with Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) temporarily glued to his rear wheel.

Landa dropped out of the contenders' group and helped his team leader to latch back on.

While Froome looked to be going into the red on Landa's wheel, Bardet looked relaxed and still had three teammates on hand to set the pace.

Froome back in touch

Once Froome was back in touch, Landa left him at the rear of the group on Bennett's wheel and moved towards the front to mark any further moves.

Within around a minute of Froome's return to the group of favourites, Barde attacked and took Uran with him.

The gap didn't last and Froome et al came back up to the front. All the while, Bardet retained the services of a willing and able teammate while all the others - except Froome who could call upon Landa - were alone.

Away in the break, Mollema hit out on a descent and got around 0:30 ahead. Not satisfied with letting him go off to a solo stage win the rest of the lead group started to chase him down.

Time running out for others to take yellow

Over six minutes behind, the GC group swelled on the descent and Bardet again had a number of teammates.

Even so, it appeared as though the opportunity to put meaningful time into Froome had passed and the race leader's strength was seemingly undiminished despite the effort he had to put into the chase.

With under a week of racing left after Monday's rest day, the opporunities to play such tactics and usurp the three time champion are running out.

Barguil crossed the final summit second, after Mollema, with Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) following him over the line.

Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) made the pair a quartet and they worked together to chase down Mollema and the chance of a stage win.

Yates was the first to try his luck on the upper slopes of the final - fourth category - climb. The white jersey pushed on while Bardet, Froome and Landa let him set his own pace up the road.

Landa came up along side Bardet and then sat on the front of the group, a show of strength from Team Sky's second choice GC man.

Yates was brought back before launching again almost instantly. This time Landa followed the move of Yates and Bardet went with them.

Again it came back together and the next to go was D. Martin who was given some space to go away and potentially improve his position on GC.

Further back, Quintana was dropping out of the top 10 and looked spent.

Tour de France 2017: Stage 15, Laissac Sévérac l’Église - Le Puy en Velay (189.5km), result

1. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, in 4:41:47
2. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 0:19
3. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal, at same time
4. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo, st
5. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb, at 0:23
6. Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC Racing, at 1:00
7. Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie, at 1:04
8. Jan Bakelants (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale, at same time
9. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, st
10. Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data, st

GC contenders

25. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 6:11
27. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 6:25
28. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at same time
29. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, st 
31. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, st
33. Romain Bardet (Fra), AG2R La Mondiale, st
34. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates, st
35. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky
36. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, st

Tour de France 2017: General classification top 10 after Stage 15

1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, in 64:40:21
2. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 0:18
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 0:23
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at 0:29
5. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 1:12
6. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky, at 1:17
7. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 2:02
8. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates, at 5:09
9. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 5:37
10. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing, at 6:05