Bauke Mollema's (Trek-Segafredo) Tour de France hopes were washed away in the rain of the Alps after he slipped out on a corner and crashed. Mollema slid out and crashed on the descent of the Monte de Bisanne on stage 18 as rain made the alpine slopes slippery. He'd been on his way to a career-defining result, but it had all gone in the blink of an eye.
The injuries are mostly superficial; the biggest damage was done to his standings in the overall classification, as he slipped from second overall to tenth. Following a desperate chase, he ran out of gas on the final climb and lost more than four minutes on the line. By the time he reached the finish, the rain that had caused so much trouble had stopped. Mollema, helped by a soigneur, rode to a team van stationed just past the top of the climb, chased by a pack of Dutch and international journalists.
There was a tear in the left-hand side of his jersey and shorts, and blood was visible through the black. As the journalists waited, Mollema climbed into the protection of the van, taking some time to gather his thoughts, catch his breath and clean himself off. When Mollema was ready, the team's press officer slid open the side door of the van and Mollema edged himself to the seat nearest it. The smiles of the rest day press conference were gone. He talked in quiet tones, the disappointment easy to hear in his voice.
"I just crashed," he said simply. "I was in second position in the peloton, and it was a really tricky part coming up. I felt good on the descent; I followed [Mikel] Cherel from AG2R, and I just slid away. I was on the ground, but I was quick to get back on the bike."
Mollema was then forced to pick his way through the carnage caused by the rain as he tried to get back to the group of favourites. "There was this tricky part coming up; we did it yesterday in the TT," he explained. "There were a lot of corners, there was another crash in front of me and then at the bottom there were small groups, and I had a gap.
"At the bottom, I tried to come back because you know that you have to come back there, or it will be difficult. I tried to close it as fast as possible, Pete Stetina, he was pulling on the flat towards the climb, but you start with 20 seconds on the first group and then I couldn't close it and then I just exploded."
- Tour de France: Bardet wins summit to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc
- Tour de France stage 19 highlights – Video
- Tour de France stage 19 - Finish line quotes
- Tour de France: Chris Froome survives crash, finishes on Thomas' bike
Mollema had been enjoying the form of his life at this year's Tour de France, despite struggling somewhat in the past two days. He started the day in second place overall, just two days away from stepping onto the podium in Paris, but he now finds himself in 10th overall. There is still an opportunity for him to make up positions before Paris, with a tough stage to Morzine tomorrow. However, after having the lure of second place dangled before him, it is little consolation.
"I think it's not too bad, just a hip and an elbow," he said of his injuries. "I think the classification is gone now. I'm still in 10th, but that was not the goal for these last days."