A double ascent of the 'Dutch Mountain' did not prove a happy omen for Bauke Mollema and Laurens ten Dam (Belkin) as they each lost further ground after struggling on stage 18 of the Tour de France to Alpe d'Huez.
It was announced after the stage that Mollema has been suffering from the flu since the time trial, and there was some question as to whether he would be able to continue. However, Friday morning Belkin directeur sportif Merijn Zeeman confirmed that Mollema would be at the start of the 19th stage in Bourg d'Oisans.
Mollema lay second overall at the beginning of the Tour's third week but he has shipped significant losses on two consecutive days. On Wednesday, he slipped to 4th overall after losing over two minutes in the Chorges time trial and he conceded two further places on general classification after he could only manage 26th on Alpe d'Huez, 6:13 down on winner Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and three minutes behind yellow jersey Chris Froome (Sky).
The 26-year-old already appeared to be suffering on the first ascent of Alpe d'Huez and the subsequent short climb of the Col de Sarenne. The impression was confirmed when he was dropped from the yellow jersey group as soon as the pace went up on the second climb of Alpe d'Huez and his directeur sportif Nico Verhoeven later confirmed that he was stricken by illness.
"It was a hard day," Mollema said. "I didn't feel very good since yesterday and today was a fight right from the start. Fortunately, Robert [Gesink] and Lars Petter [Nordhaug] stayed with me and helped me. Without that, I would have lost even more time. The podium is too far off but I'm happy that I only lost two places."
As was the case the previous day, Mollema was joined in his suffering by Laurens ten Dam, albeit further down the mountain. Ten Dam was already dangling off the back of the yellow jersey group on the first ascent of Alpe d'Huez and he realised immediately that his would be an afternoon of damage limitation.
"I suffered today. During the first climb of Alpe d'Huez, I was already on the limit, I felt bad. I was in survival mode," said ten Dam. He crossed the line 9:54 down in 37th place and drops to 10th overall.
"I have to thanks Lars Boom. He was in the break but did a huge amount of work for me on Alpe d'Huez after he was caught. My crash yesterday maybe did me more harm than I thought but I hope I can recover from here on in."
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