Mollema slipped from seventh to 10th as the group of favourites was decimated on the final climb of Port de Bales. There was a silver lining for ten Dam. Although he lost more than a minute to the yellow jersey, he gained a position in the general classification with rivals such as Tejay van Garderen having a worse day in the mountains.
Ten Dam was dropped on the ascent, but had hoped to pull back the deficit in the long run-in to Bagnères-de-Luchon. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, the Dutch rider found himself having to go it alone and, unlike NetApp-Endura's Leopold König, he didn't see the yellow jersey again. "König took the lead when we closed in on the top. I wanted to follow him, as I know that Zubeldia, who was in between, is not very strong on a downhill," said ten Dam.
"Unfortunately, I was at my limit and couldn't pass him. Right when we started the descent, Zubeldia punctured and I ended up all alone. The last 15 kilometres felt like ages. I gave my all until I reached the finish line. I burned 5500 calories. That says enough."
His teammate Mollema trailed in almost two minutes further back than his teammate, with Fränk Schleck and Jurgen Van Den Broeck for company.
"Unfortunately, it didn't go so well today," said Mollema. "The final climb was very difficult. Four kilometres from the summit, I was dropped. It's difficult to keep giving all you have all the way to the top, but of course I wanted to limit my damage and get to the finish as fast as possible."
Ten Dam has looked the stronger of the two Belkin riders in the mountains, but has been making up time on Mollema since the cobbles on stage five. Stage 16 is the first time that he has looked in serious trouble.
"My legs didn't feel as good as in the Alps. Today hurt but I think everyone suffered. Uphill, my legs were OK, that's something we can build on, especially in the next few days."