Mollema saves Tour de France podium position on Mont Ventoux

Belkin fights back to hang on to second

Belkin riders Laurens ten Dam and Bauke Mollema clawed back a 40 second deficit on Alberto Contador to maintain the team's slender second place on the overall classification after stage 15 of the Tour de France to the Mont Ventoux summit.

On the longest stage of the Tour, ten Dam – fifth on GC – neutralised a gap gained by Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff Bank) and towed his team leader Mollema to the Ventoux summit. Mollema's gap is now 11 seconds over Contador.

"I was still good and Bauke could only follow – I was his super domestique," ten Dam told Dutch radio after the 242km stage.

A ferocious pace set by Richie Porte (Sky) for yellow jersey and stage winner Chris Froome dragged Contador free of the Belkin riders with around 8km to go.

And at one point, the gap between Contador and the Dutch pair – joined for a while by their teammate Robert Gesink – was more than 40 seconds.

Belkin directeur sportif Nico Verhoeven said: "Robert, Laurens and Bauke worked well today.

"Lau made a good pass with 2.5km to go and then Contador was back under 30 seconds and breaking. It gave Lau good motivation to keep going."

Verhoeven said the day's strategy had been to keep Mollema and ten Dam together and riding tempo to avoid losing time to other GC riders. He said Gesink was active in the race but was unable to sustain the effort with 6km to go.

Now the team's thoughts turn to how it to protect its podium spot from an onslaught of challengers, including two Saxo-Tinkoff Bank riders Contador and Roman Kreuziger. Going into the second rest day tomorrow, six riders are separated by less than 2:10 on the GC.

"There are five or six riders that are trying to get on the podium and there are only two left next to Froome," commented Verhoeven.

Verhoeven predicted that the time trial could be a crucial battleground for second and third places on GC.

"We have a rest day and then we have five stages and the time trial. With two mountains in, it's going to be really, really, hard."


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