CULOZ, France (VN) — Team Sky appeared to have the Tour de France under control for Chris Froome on Sunday when it rode through the Jura Mountains in France’s east, but Bauke Mollema — second overall at 1:47 — and his Trek – Segafredo team believe that the win remains within reach.
The 29-year-old Dutchman moved into second on GC after an impressive Mont Ventoux stage and time trial. A buzz has grown around Mollema at the Tour where one did not exist before. Now, some are whispering that he may have a chance to even win the race overall.
“He cracked in the 2012 Vuelta a España, so he’s not untouchable,” Mollema said of Froome. “He’s been strong so far, but he can also have a bad day.”
Mollema will not directly say that he can win the Tour de France, but his team is indicating so. After the Ventoux and time trial stage, the squad is rallying even more so around the tall Dutchman.
His position seems hard to imagine since before the Tour, Froome’s biggest rivals were considered to be Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). Quintana, at least for now, does not look as brilliant as he did in 2013 and 2015 when he placed second overall, and Contador is at home nursing broken bones in his leg following his crashes in the opening two days.
“Yeah because we are talking about athletes who’ve already won grand tours and at the moment, Bauke’s not yet won one,” General Manager Luca Guercilena said. “It was normal that the big favorites at the start were those who’d already won.”
Mollema flew under the radar, but he had been on it before. In 2013, he rode second overall into the final week before losing time in the Alps and ultimately finishing sixth on GC. Trek kept its faith and worked with Mollema to be more aggressive and more determined.
“If you think of Tirreno-Adriatico last year, when he placed second behind Quintana on a snowy summit finish, then you can understand,” added Guercilena. “That showed that he found that extra bit of rudeness. He’s racing in that way now in the Tour.
“Nothing’s impossible now. Clearly, the distance is significant because 1:47 behind Froome is significant. Top five is our goal, we began with that aim, but on the other hand, we are not going to limit ourselves and the occasions we have.”
Mollema explained that he takes strength from Trek – Segafredo’s call to battle and the faith it placed in him when renewing his contract. The team also signed Alberto Contador for 2017, but must wait until August 1 to confirm it.
The team will probably find an extra push from Mont Ventoux. Mollema crashed with Froome and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) after a motorbike stopped abruptly at 1.2 kilometers from the finish. He remounted and put 1:40 into his rivals, but the jury adjusted the times afterwards to give Froome and Porte the same finishing time. Mollema said afterwards that had it been him, the jury would not have made the same call.
“Our motto is ‘Try or die.’ We have to at least try,” Guercilena said. “You can only understand if Froome’s in trouble if you try to attack. It didn’t work for the others in the last years, but maybe this year will be the one.”