Dutch squad counts the venture into the Pyrenees as an unvarnished success
On the day that the Tour de France transfers north to Saint-Nazaire, the rejuvenated Dutch Team Belkin have Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam sitting third and fourth on general classification - both less than two minutes behind yellow jersey Chris Froome (Sky).
The team's strategy in the early mountains had been to ride prudently. On the first Pyrenean stage to Ax-3-Domaines, Mollema decided not to follow a blistering pace set by Sky and reaped the reward by passing exhausted riders all the way to the finish.
On yesterday's stage 9, the Dutch pair allowed Team Sky, Movistar, Garmin-Sharp and Saxo-Tinkoff bank to trade blows over the five categorised climbs to Bagnères-de-Bigorre as they sat in the wheels of the yellow jersey group.
Team Belkin director sportif Nico Verhoeven said the team had not anticipated having two riders so high up on GC.
"After the Pyrenees we didn't expect we would have two riders in the top four - that's unbelievable," Verhoeven said yesterday.
"Before the Tour, Bauke Mollema already showed good condition at Tour de Suisse with second place overall. Laurens [Ten Dam] was 13th in the overall and he has improved in the last week, too.
"We knew that they were good, but we didn't expect them to be as good as that," said Verhoeven.
Verhoeven said Chris Froome's (Sky) commanding position at the top of the GC aside, a shake-up could be visited on the general classification on Wednesday and the 33km time trial to Mont-Saint-Michel.
"Froome is a little bit far away, but when you look from Valverde to 15th place there's maybe one minute and 50 seconds - there's not a big gap and in a time trial you can go from third place to 12th place easily.
The flat Brittany time trial probably represents more of a threat than an opportunity to the two Dutch climbing specialists who could find themselves under pressure from Saxo-Tinkoff Bank riders Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff Bank) and Roman Kreuziger, who are immediately below them on GC. However, the tough final week of climbing in the Alps may turn the race back in their favour.
"The [time trial] will be really important for the GC but next after that will be the Mont Ventoux - that will be a long stage, it will be hot, and there're no mountains before, so it will be a strange day," said Verhoeven.
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