Great victory for Mollema in the calm before tomorrow's storm
After the first mountain section and after Cavendish made history, came again a dynamic stage, a stage with many climbs but none very significant, but with a quite spectacular profile for that swing. Three second and two third category passes, with a downhill finish that invited to think that arriving at the Col de Saint-Louis in a breakaway or solo would ensure the victory in this fourteenth stage of the Tour de France 2021. In the end, it was Mollema who read the situation best and went solo. UAE kept the peloton calm ahead of the next two Pyrenean stages to come.
Stage 14: breakaway attempts and a very quiet UAE
That last section, perfect for attacking up and consolidating down, left everything open at the finish in Quillan. After 184 kilometers, that false flat downhill also gave the option that if a sprinter could hold his nerve, he could take the stage by a good margin, a very colorful stage, with spectacular landscapes.
The stage began with a very tough balance: there are already 35 retirements in this Tour de France 2021. Seeing up to two flat tires in the neutralized section, it made you want to accept this reality and leave.
Against this scenario, names like Van Aert or Alaphilippe soon appeared and tried, although neither of them could consolidate a breakaway in their early attempts.
It was a double breakaway that was later joined by the one that formed a small first breakaway, with Sbaragli, Turgis, Chevalier, Skujins and Rickaert. No big names and no leading team were arguments in their favor for the peloton to see them as harmless and let them go.
But nothing like that, the gap was moving between 30 and 10 seconds. And it depended on peace or war in the peloton, because several teams were fighting to pull the group or to pacify it. Among so much fighting, UAE tried to put some peace and in that peace there is always a better result: the peloton measured a good pace and ended up catching the breakaway without further complications at 80 kilometers.
The good breakaway and Mollema's attack
Then, in that calm, it was Nibali who sought his moment of prominence. 10 seconds was not enough for the Italian, who ended up giving up. But he opened the way to the party of attempts. Next up was Wout Poels. The Bahrain rider took the same medicine as the shark Nibali. In the middle of the tug-of-war, the green jersey, Cavendish, dropped back. Obviously, today was not his day.
Of all those attempts, the one by Cattaneo, Poels and Woods came to success, with UAE continuing to lead the peloton. Many thought that this could be the good breakaway, so Higuita, Konrad, Mollema or Martin, tried to catch it and form a more than interesting little group that was already shaping up to be dangerous for the end of the stage. Once again, UAE controlled with all the calm in the world: they were not going to risk an inch for a stage that does not matter to them in the least. Thus, they allowed the gap to go over a minute at the Col de Montségur.
At the foot of the Col de la Croix, after more than 110 kilometers, the breakaway looked very good and had a very good line-up: Woods, Cattaneo, Poels, Mollema, Konrad, Guillaume Martin, Higuita, Chaves, Omar Fraile and Meintjes. The gap: almost two minutes. Behind, what was happening? Guess. UAE at cruising speed, calmly and without a single hitch.
The two groups ahead of the peloton took advantage of this break and lack of intentions in the peloton to join. There were already 14 riders with less than 50 kilometers to go. It looked good and 4 minutes of gap.
Even so, there were incidents. Woods was very unlucky and went to the ground, but in an exercise of pride he caught the rest. It was clear that they were very close at the top, so Mollema had an idea: attack downhill. And it worked, because he got half a minute on the rest, a half minute that he transformed and doubled to a minute in the next 10 kilometers. Spectacular effort of Bauke Mollema and the Trek rider to make amends and vindicate himself in this Tour de France 2021. Behind, a quartet led by Cattaneo went after him, but the good Mollema was in good shape. He topped the Col de Saint-Louis with one minute, they could not take even a thousandth of a second off him. Behind, with the forecasts of what was to come tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, they remained in conservative mode.
And that script was fulfilled to the letter. Mollema's solo victory, a chasing group behind, and the peloton almost 6 minutes behind with all the calm in the world. The need for the maximum reserve to face the Pyrenees is in the air. And it will be needed, no doubt.
- Mollema, B. - Trek Segafredo | 4:16:16
- Konrad, P. - Bora Hansgrohe | +1:04
- Higuita, S.A. - Education First | +1:04
- Pogacar, T. - UAE | 56:50:21
- Martin, G. - Cofidis | +4:04
- Uran, R. - Education First | +5:18