Tour de France shorts: Gesink shines on Col de Soudet

Mollema climbs to 11th overall, Pauwels picks up MTN baton, Valls surges on climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin

LottoNL-Jumbo’s Robert Gesink advertised his current good form Tuesday during the stage 10 finish in La Pierre Saint Martin, attacking the select lead group on the early slopes of the 15km final climb up Col de Soudet and eventually finishing fourth on the stage.

The 29-year-old Dutch rider, who injured his knee in training earlier this year, moved from 15th overall at the start of the day to eighth by the end of the stage.

“I’m exhausted but happy,” Gesink said of his stage 10 performance. “I saw people getting dropped but felt good myself and decided to be crazy and give it a go. We didn’t discuss anything, but I knew that when the big men began accelerating, they would go too fast for me. I anticipated and it worked out well today.”

Movistar led the peloton into the climb, hoping to set up team leader Nairo Quintana, but it was Gesink who jumped away first as word spread that the Movistar pace was starting to take a toll on the lead group.

Team Sky’s Richie Porte eventually pulled Quintana and teammate Chris Froome back onto terms with Gesink before Froome went on to take the stage, with Porte next and Quintana third.

Gesink held on for fourth, but he admitted later that he had thought briefly about the stage win.

“I thought about it for a moment,” he said. “But looking back, I should have done that. I don’t quite realise what has happened. Today I had a super day. I felt strong. I’m happy. I wonder what’s in store for me tomorrow.”

LottoNL-Jumbo coach Merijn Zeeman was ecstatic about Gesink’s result.

“Things didn’t always go as planned for us this year, and Robert has had his share of setbacks as well,” Zeeman said. “It is fantastic what he did today. I’m happy for him. I’m touched now and at a loss for words. This is wonderful to experience. We have to go a long way, though. We’re just getting started now because today was the first mountain stage." 

Robert Gesink (LottoNl-Jumbo)
Robert Gesink attacks on the final climb of stage 10 at the 2015 Tour de France.

Mollema hoped for more on climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin

Bauke Mollema’s performance on the stage 10 final climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin left something to be desired. The Trek Factory Racing rider was dropped from the lead group in the first third of the 15km ascent, along with the Tour's defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-QuickStep), crossing the finish line in 17th place, 4:09 minutes behind stage winner and overall leader Chris Froome (Team Sky).

“I just couldn’t go fast. At the bottom of the climb, the speed was so high and I just couldn’t follow. I tried to go as fast as possible to the top and I was with Nibali all the time. But I just didn’t have any power in the legs,” Mollema said in a team press release, disappointed about his performance on the first mountain stage of the Tour de France.

“It was a really easy start until the last 20-25 kilometers; it was just easy all day. But then you knew the last climb was going to be full gas but, yeah, I don’t know…I was hoping for more today and it just didn’t go as I wanted.

“Our group was going okay in the last five kilometers, but I think in the steep part we lost a lot of time. In the last kilometer I knew I had to give everything to the finish. But in the end it was a lot of time lost today.”

Mollema may have lost a significant amount of time to Froome on the climb but he did move up to 11th place overall (from 16th place after the team time trial). He is now 7:15 behind Froome.

“I don’t have an explanation - I really felt good until today. I knew that today would tell me something about the field; it was a surprise, though, what I found, and not in what I had hoped to see,” Mollema said.

“The gaps are substantial, but the GC battle for me is not over. Let’s see for the next days.”

Bauke Mollema (Trek)
Bauke Mollema rides into 11th overall during stage 10 of the Tour de France.

Pauwels takes the reins for MTN-Qhubeka on first mountain stage

Although Daniel Teklehaimanot’s historic run in the mountains jersey ended Tuesday when Chris Froome (Team Sky) accelerated away from the lead group to win stage 10 at the Tour de France, MTN-Qhubeka took stock in the performance from its other climbers during the first mountain stage.

As the final climb began to take its toll on the peloton, MTN-Qhubeka’s Serge Pauwels, Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Louis Meintjes were able to hang with the front group as it slimmed down to just 25 riders. When Team Sky poured on the power at the front and the group disintegrated, Pauwels was able to hang on for 14th place.

“My initial goal was to be in the long breakaway, but after trying in those first few kilometres I felt I had good legs after the rest day,” Pauwels said of his performance.

The 167km stage started with a generally flat 150km route to the foot of the Col de Soudet, a 15.3km HC category climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin. Froome took the stage win ahead of teammate Richie Porte and Movistar’s Nairo Quintana.

“In the final I was surprised that I was able to follow the best for such a long time,” Pauwels said. “I didn’t want to get in the way of the real GC guys so at first I gave them some space but then I saw Nibali got dropped and I still had good legs.

“I just kept riding within my own limits. This is a great result for me. I am happy to have been given so much confidence by the team.”

 Serge Pauwels (MTN=Qhubeka)
Serge Pauwels crosses the finish line for 14th place during stage 10.

Valls surges to the front on climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin

Tour of Oman winner Rafael Valls (Lampre-Merida) took advantage of the uphill terrain and his faltering team leader to take control – if ever so briefly – of the Tour de France on Tuesday.

Valls reacted to an acceleration by Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) in the final kilometres of stage 10 during the uphill finish to La Pierre-Saint-Martin, joining the Dutchman at the head of the race while the general classification battle heated up behind.

The duo led the stage for 2km before an attack from Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde closed the gap and Chris Froome (Team Sky) eventually went on for the stage win. Valls managed to finish the stage in 12th, 3:09 behind the leader. The 28-year-old Spaniard is nearly an hour behind in the overall, however.

"After a difficult first week of the Tour de France, I was aware I was going to face some stages which could be suitable for my qualities,” Valls said. “Today I wanted to test my legs if there would have been the opportunity.

“When Rui [Costa] was not anymore in the head group, I knew I would have tried to make something for the team: I decided to attack exploiting the action of Gesink. The legs were good but not enough for avoiding the reaction of the best riders in the group. Even if I could not complete my action with a top result, I think I got good feedback about my condition.”

Costa lost more than 16 minutes during the stage and is currently 33rd overall, 22:10 behind Froome.

"Today was not a good day for me,” he said. “On the final climb I realized that the feelings were bad, probably because of the still not perfect condition of my left leg, the heat and the fact that I suffered after the rest day, as often happens.

“I was aware that the ambitions for the overall classification were becoming weak, so I prefer to complete the climb pedalling on a regular pace and not to spend further energies. I saved them in order to be ready to exploit the opportunities that for sure the Tour de France will give me; I'll try to be protagonist in the demanding stages.”

Robert Gesink went on the attack late in the stage.
Rafael Valls joins Robert Gesink up the road during stage 10.

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