D.he 14th stage of the Tour de France, the first in the Pyrenees, was a case for Bauke Mollema. The Dutchman from Team Trek-Segafredo won the 183.7 kilometer section from Carcassonne to Quillan as a soloist. 42 kilometers from the finish he had taken courage and with a determined start he said goodbye to a 14-strong group of leaders. After ten more kilometers he was more than a minute ahead, a time cushion that he successfully defended with tenacious energy and a hanging tongue to the finish.
The surprise of the day was provided by Guillaume Martin, who studied philosopher in the peloton. After making the leap into the decisive breakaway group and arriving at the end with a lead of more than four minutes over the group of class riders, he improved from ninth to second in the overall standings. He is now only 4:04 minutes behind Tadej Pogacar. For the Slovenes, however, this is nothing to worry about. For him, Martin is not a serious opponent on the upcoming high mountain stages.
Patrick Konrad from the German team Bora-hansgrohe delivered a strong performance. The Austrian champion won the sprint for second place against the Colombian Sergio Higuita (EF Education-Nippo) by a hair’s breadth. “I’m not unhappy with the placement,” he said. “But I would be happier if I could have sprinted for first place.” That might have been possible if Konrad hadn’t had to keep a low profile in the escape group. The reason was Guillaume Martin, whom he shouldn’t help to get even more time out of Bora captain Wilco Keldermann in the overall standings.
The return to the mountains began on Saturday with a good taste of what the drivers in the Pyrenees have in store for the next few days. After the start in Carcassonne, the stage led over five mountains, two of the third and three of the second category. The vertical meters totaled 2900, which is not a terrifying tour for the professionals, but also not a drive. The pace was high from the start. It therefore took an unusually long time until the field let a group go. Around eighty kilometers had already been covered.
But then the time had come, escape groups were allowed to leave, and in the field that remained behind, all drivers with ambitions sorted themselves into the overall standings. Almost everyone: Martin had made the jump. With 60 kilometers from the finish line, a stable leading group was finally found: 14 drivers, including Pierre Rolland, Michael Woods, Wout Poels, Mollema, Esteban Chaves, Patrick Konrad, Sergio Higuita and Guillaume Martin, many good climbers.
The Canadian Woods fell on a descent, but was able to continue and catch up with his colleagues again. His reward at the finish: He took over the lead in the mountain classification from Nairo Quintana. 43 kilometers before the end of the month the decisive attack by Mollema. “It was a clever move on his part,” said Patrick Konrad, who, like his colleagues, was left behind in this situation. Mollema gets up and away and is no longer in danger of being overtaken again.
The ascent and descent on Saturday are now followed by four more difficult Pyrenees stages, the first on this Sunday leads from Céret to the Principality of Andorra with three peaks in the first and one in the second category. A total of 4500 meters in altitude, that is the order of magnitude of the spectacular stage on Mont Ventoux last Wednesday. Even if Pogacar should still prove to be unassailable, this stage can bring about significant changes in the places behind him. In the overall standings, the second, Guillaume Martin, and the ninth, Enric Mas, are just 3:07 minutes apart.