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Stef Clement (Belkin) crashed out of the Tour today
Mollema happy to avoid late crashes on the road to Nancy
Stage 7 of the Tour de France was a mixed day for Belkin with Bauke Mollema finishing in the front group with his main GC rivals while Sep Vanmarcke contested the sprint for the win only for a crash involving Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) to disrupt his sprint in Nancy. However, the low-point of the day was losing Stef Clement who was forced to abandon after crashing and landing on his head.
The Dutchman underwent a scan at a hospital which revealed he suffered no head trauma from the crash.
"I was alongside Stef when it happened," teammate Bram Tankink said. "He crashed all by himself and landed right on his head. He sat there for a while and I knew things weren't good.
"We're going to miss him a lot. He was here to work for our leaders in the mountains. The first real hills come in the next few days, when his Tour was supposed to start. This is very unfortunate and sad."
The team's sports director Nico Verhoeven said that there was no way that Clement could have carried on after the heavy fall.
"He was dizzy and didn't remember how he had crashed," he said. "We are now missing a very important rider, but we have to keep going. Now, others have to do the work Stef normally does. We're going to search for a solution. Luckily, our other riders made it through the hectic final unscathed."
While Mollema's chances for a high overall finish in Paris will be hindered by the loss of Clement, the Dutchman explained that managed to make it to Nancy unscathed by riding at the front of the select peloton.
"Again it was a hectic final," said Mollema. "Everybody was afraid of the possibility of echelons and things got nervous early on. Because many riders wanted to be in the front, there were numerous crashes. With 15 kilometres to go, I was able to escape a crash.
"The two final climbs weren't very hard. I started the climbs on the front row and that helped me to save some energy. On the last climb, I didn't feel super, but nevertheless I got over it pretty easily. I wasn't thinking about sprinting for the stage win. With men like Sagan, that's too hard for me. Sep [Vanmarcke] was our man today."
A crash which brought down Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) in the final 200 meters disrupted Vanmarcke who vented his frustration after the finish in Nancy.
"I took the final climbs with the best and was totally ready to sprint," said a disappointed Vanmarcke. "I really put my heart into this stage. I really wanted a result, but in the final 400 metres, I got boxed in and was hindered by a crash. I'm not satisfied as yet again things didn't work out as hoped."
Stage 8 is the first mountainous day of the Tour and Verhoeven is looking to see Mollema impress on the climbs to Gerardmer.
"The final is not very difficult, but we still have to tackle three climbs," said Verhoeven. "Several riders will fall out of the top ten and Bauke will have to prove what he's worth. It will be the first real indication of how strong the overall men truly are."