By Julien Pretot
QUILLAN, France (Reuters) -Bauke Mollema completed a bold, vintage solo raid to claim his second Tour de France win in 11 participations at the end of the 14th stage, a rough 183.7-km ride from Carcassonne on Saturday.
Austrian Patrick Konrad took second place, with Colombia’s Sergio Higuita coming home third, one minute four seconds off the pace. Slovenian Tadej Pogacar retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey at the end of a hot day in southwestern France, on roads peppered with short but brutal climbs.
“I knew I had a good chance to make it to the end, I paced myself, and when I saw I had a minute at the top of the last climb, I knew it was done,” said Mollema, who sped away from the breakaway group on descent with 42 kilometers to go. “A few days ago, I had checked the course on Google Maps, especially the last 60 kilometers. I waited for the right moment to attack.
“I felt I had good legs in the breakaway, and my confidence grew,” added Mollema, who had won his first Tour stage in 2017 in a similar fashion and has six top-10 finishes on grands tours. The Trek-Segafredo rider’s fourth major victory after he also won the Giro di Lombardia ‘Monument’ classic in 2019 and the Clasica San Sebastian in 2016.
The 34-year-old said he learned from his mistakes in the Giro d’Italia earlier this year. “I made some mistakes, after one week only I was too eager to go in a breakaway, and I spent too much energy, that killed me for the rest of the Giro,” he explained.
However, there was one significant change in the general classification, as France’s Guillaume Martin jumped from ninth to second after taking part in the day’s breakaway. Pogacar leads Martin by 4:04, with Colombian Rigoberto Uran in third place, 5:18 behind the defending champion. Canadian Michael Woods snatched the polka-dot jersey for the mountains classification despite a crash after a two-man battle over the climbs with Dutch Wout Poels.
“I’m the first Canadian to wear it, and I’m proud of that,” said Woods. “On the crash, it’s my fault; I got in front because it was a dangerous descent, but my wheel slipped.” Sunday’s 15th stage is a lung-busting 191.3-km mountain trek to Andorra as the race reaches its highest point at the Port d’Envalira, 2,408 meters above sea level. (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Christina Fincher)