Bauke Mollema waved his arms in celebration as he crossed the line solo in le Puy-en-Velay, savouring his first ever Tour de France victory, having fended off the chase of his former breakaway companions for a full 30 kilometers.
The Dutchman has often targeted the overall classification at the Tour de France, suffering and fighting for every second during the three weeks. This time, after targeting the Giro d'Italia, he is racing the Tour both in support of Alberto Contador and with an eye on stage wins. He took full advantage of his freedom on stage 15 to earn himself and his team a first success in this year's race.
It has been a lean season for Trek-Segafredo so far, especially with Contador struggling to be an overall contender at the Tour. Mollema's solo attack in the finale gave the Dutchman his biggest win of his career and lifted morale in the team.
"I've been close a few times but never won a stage. It's amazing, this is what you do all the work for and train so hard. It's great to do it in the Tour de France, the biggest race and a special race for me."
Mollema attacked over the top of the final climb with 31 to go. It was an audacious but confident attack, and he time trialed to victory.
"I looked back and saw I had a small gap, so I went for it. It was a really hard final 30km, I don't think I've ever done 30km alone like that, even as an amateur," he said.
"With one kilometre to go I was pretty sure I'd win but with four kilometres to go, I only had 11 seconds. But I kept going, didn't blow up and so knew I was going to win. It was a special feeling winning alone like that and could really enjoy it."
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All in for the stage victory
Mollema revealed that he almost didn't make it into the move of the day after he was not part of the first attack.
"I really wanted to be in the break but we missed the first move of 10 guys, then Team Sky and the sprinters' teams blocked the road and we couldn't get past," he explained.
"Then finally, when we got to the front, Gogl, Degenkolb and De Kort kept the speed high in the peloton and I could bridge up to the break on the climb. In the break, there were a lot of strong riders there. But I felt good and after the long late climb, I saw I had a small gap and I just went for it.
"I tried to be as aero as possible today. I was wearing a skinsuit and the big (deep section) wheels. I had good legs the whole day so I am happy to have made it. Winning was a special feeling."
Back chasing the GC in the 2018 Tour de France
Mollema was second overall in the 2016 Tour de France with just three stages remaining. However, he crashed hard and lost time in the Alps on the stage to Mont Blanc and eventually reached Paris 11th overall.
Despite that disappointment and the expected presence of Alberto Contador at Trek-Segafredo in 2018, Mollema revealed he hopes to again target the overall classification next season. He is not afraid of the pain and sacrifice involved.
"I like to fight for the GC and normally next year I'll go back to the fight for GC in the Tour. I like to fight for three weeks and give it everything," he explained.
"It's much too hard to do the GC in the Tour after doing it in the Giro too, we saw that with Quintana. It's a difficult combo. One Grand Tour for GC and one for stages is something I'd like to do for the next few years."
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