Departing from the Pyrenees, the transitional stage 13 of the Tour de France ended with the remnants of a small breakaway including Wilco Kellerman (LottoNL-Jumbo), being caught within sight of the finishing line. Kelderman continues to recover from a back injury suffered in the massive crash during the opening week of the Tour. The 198.5km stage had riders struggling to keep hydrated in souring temperatures. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) sprinted for the win, narrowly beating Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), and Jan Bakelants (Ag2R La Mondiale) in third.
“After my crash, I tried to save as much energy as possible,” Kelderman said. “We picked out some stages to try something, and this was one of them. I don’t think my back will fully recover this Tour, but racing is not a problem now.”
The 24-year-old was one of many riders involved in the massive crash on stage 3 that forced several big names to abandon, including the yellow jersey of the day Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). Kenderman's teammate Laurens ten Dam dislocated his shoulder in the incident but continued on, while Kelderman suffered several abrasions that have affected his riding since.
“A little more pain is OK,” he added. “If your legs hurt, you don’t really feel all the other pain.”
After finishing seventh at the Giro d’Italia this May, followed by fourth at the Criterium du Dauphiné, Kelderman was shooting for a top ten finish at his debut Tour. Those hopes were abandoned after the crash, as he has lost over an hour on GC since. Following a challenging first week with riders recovering from their injuries, LottoNL-Jumbo was forced to change tactics, looking to stage 13 for a chance to win.
“The plan was that many of our guys would try and get in the break,” Nico Verhoeven said, sports director for the squad. “The first group directly proved to be the right one. We thought it was not going to happen for Wilco, but in the end, he came so close. He was stranded with only 250 meters to go. Chapeau for Wilco.”
Kelderman had succeeded in joining the break that was kept on a tight leash by the peloton throughout the day. After a final attempt to gain time on the last climb, the gap began to drop dramatically as the sprinter teams organised. Kelderman and his other two breakaway companions gave it their all, only to be caught within sight of the line.
“On the road, I did not believe I would fight for the win,” he added. “When we accelerated and they didn’t really close in on us, I started to believe in my chances. On the final climb, I gave all I had and didn’t look back.
"With only 500 metres to go, I thought about a victory but when they caught us, I was done. Very sad, I was so close,” he said immediately after finishing.
“Wilco and the other attackers were great today, they rode very hard,” Verhoeven said proudly. “Wilco got in the mix even if he isn’t fully fit – that’s a positive sign. He is not 100%, but he still almost won a very difficult stage in the Tour.”