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Saturday’s stage of the Tour de France had all the hallmarks of a so-called “transition” day, but it wasn’t short of action.
The peloton ripped through the Pyrénéan foothills for several hours before a break stuck, and it was Bauke Mollema that proved strongest of the escape group, attacking solo at 42km out to claim a spectacular victory.
Tadej Pogačar retained yellow, Michael Woods climbed into the polka dot jersey and Guillaume Martin made a surprise leap up to second on GC as the race heads to the thin air of Andorra on Sunday.
Here’s what the stars said after the 14th stage of the 2021 Tour de France:
Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo): Stage winner
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) July 10, 2021
Bauke Mollema went solo at 42km before TTing to his second Tour de France victory, delivering Trek-Segafredo its first win at the race since 2018.
Like his victories at Il Lombardia and Trofeo Laigueglia, the Dutchman hit out solo and used his massive motor to hold off a four-strong chase group.
Mollema’s victory makes for a timely reward for Trek-Segafredo after the team had been active through the past week, with Kenny Elissonde and Mollema going two-three on the Ventoux stage Wednesday. The U.S.-registered squad was aggressive from the start of Saturday’s stage, and this time, Mollema was able to convert.
“It’s super nice. It’s amazing to win a stage again.
“I was feeling good so I thought to go from far. I did about 40km alone so it was a hard final,” he said. “I’m super happy I made it. I had the confidence that I could ride alone and then keep going a long time. Once I had over a minute I knew I could make it to the line, I can pace myself well.
“The team has been riding really aggressively in the last week. We were really going for the stage win now we’re not in GC anymore. Stages like this we really wanted to be in the break. Big thanks to the guys at the start of the race, they did a great job, they didn’t miss a single break so it’s super nice for the team.”
Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation): 5th on stage, mountains classification leader
ISN claims the polka dot jersey with @rusty_woods.
He anticipated, joined a late breakaway, collected points along the way and got Israel Start-Up Nation its FIRST EVER #TDF2021 jersey!
— Israel Start-Up Nation / Israel Cycling Academy (@TeamIsraelSUN) July 10, 2021
It was a day of mixed fortune for Michael Woods. The Canadian climber had been active in forcing the day’s break and went head-to-head with Wout Poels in the battle for mountains points.
Woods was looking strong in the 14-up breakaway that included Bauke Mollema before he crashed out on long sweeping descent. He was quick to get back on the bike and form one of a quartet of chasers behind Mollema, but was nursing with bruising and cuts to his elbow and hip.
Although Woods missed out on the stage-winner’s podium, he was able to visit the platform to claim the polka dot jersey after overtaking Nairo Quintana in the mountain classification.
“I’m very proud … I think I’m the first Canadian to wear the polka dot jersey.
“I knew the descent was dangerous, that’s why I wanted to get in front. But my wheel slipped in the turn. I told myself that luck was against me when I found myself on the ground, but I was able to get up and was in the final.
“Almost everyone fell in the team in the first week, so the polka dot jersey is going to be good for morale. Now I’m going to try to keep it, that’s the goal and I would also like to go for a stage. But we’ll have to see if I’m doing well tomorrow morning after this fall.”
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates): GC leader
#TDF2021 The guys have finished in the peloton at 6’53” behind the solo stage winner Bauke Mollema (TFS). @TamauPogi retains the yellow jersey.#UAETeamEmirates #RideTogether pic.twitter.com/K2P7sNQ3sA
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamEmiratesUAE) July 10, 2021
Tadej Pogačar enjoyed an easy day in the peloton Saturday.
Pogačar and his UAE Emirates teammates initially didn’t seem to want to take control of the race, only asserting authority when the break went clear. Despite the presence of GC threat Guillaume Martin in the escape, Pogačar was content to let the Frenchman ride away, believing a new addition to the chase for the podium would only take attention away from his yellow jersey.
The Slovenian sounded almost threateningly confident in his post-race interview, ruling nothing out for the approaching bloc of mountain stages.
“Martin wasn’t too much of a concern, but we couldn’t give him too much time because he’s a super-strong rider. But I think 4:04 is still a good advantage and now other teams need to take him down also. I think we gained with his position – it could be helpful in the next stages.
“It was a super good day for me, I felt super good on the bike. I enjoyed every moment of it, and the team was super good. Nobody was really struggling … all eight riders were really strong. Today was really impressive.
“I have checked Sunday’s stage [in Andorra]. It’s really hard with a lot of altitude. But I think we have good ambitions going into tomorrow. We have confidence and see what will happen.
“Sure, we’ll ride defensively – the first thought is to defend the jersey. But like I always say, if there’s an opportunity, you grab it.”
Guillaume Martin (Cofidis): 11th on the stage, 2nd on GC
Guillaume Martin won big Saturday. The Frenchman made it into the day’s breakaway with the hopes of a stage win and came out with a seven-spot leap in GC.
Martin pulled five minutes back on the GC pack after UAE Emirates let the break take a strong margin. He is now second overall at 4:04 on Pogačar.
Although Martin didn’t have the legs to fight for the stage Saturday, he is looking to keep attacking through the Pyrénées to see where he ends up on GC.
“It was a super hard stage, it didn’t turn off from the start. I spent a lot of energy to take the breakaway and keep it alive. The understanding was not great. In the end, I had a problem with dehydration. I hope I will recover for tomorrow [Sunday]. On a downhill finish, the stage victory was hard to play. It’s a good day and I’m happy so the way the team ran.”
“This year, I really want to take risks and today it paid off. I was wondering if I was too close to the general to be left to attack. UAE cannot run after all breaks. I forced my destiny. There are quite a few opportunities and I will continue”.