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Saxo pair snuffs Mollema in Chorges, but remains watchful

CHORGES, France (VN) — Saxo-Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador and Roman Kreuziger overtook Bauke Mollema (Belkin) in the Tour de France’s stage 18 time trial on Wednesday. Their gains put the pair in second and third overall, but they still have three big mountain days ahead. They know anything is possible, even supplanting overall leader Chris Froome (Sky), and must keep alert.

“We’re happy. No one expected it from Alberto. He was even pretty close to the stage victory,” Saxo director Philippe Mauduit told VeloNews in the cramped space beyond the finish line.

Maduit wanted to look at the results closely, but said, “We think it’s still possible to win the overall.”

Contador was second to Froome in the time trial, by nine seconds. Kreuziger finished 23 seconds back. Importantly, they overhauled Dutchman Mollema, who started the day second overall.

Mollema lost 2:09 to Froome and slightly less to his Saxo rivals. Froome now leads by 4:34 over Contador and 4:51 over Kreuziger. Mollema is fourth overall, at 6:23.

The 26-year old nearly crashed when he lost control two kilometers from the finish and only stayed upright thanks to fencing along the road. It was an appropriate ending for an already subpar ride.

Surrounded by journalists, he had few words to describe his ride and struggled for his breath.

“I went too fast in the corner. My brakes weren’t working well in the last descent and I’d lost confidence,” Mollema said. “Maybe it cost me only five seconds or less, but it’s always shit.”

“Second place was already a dream,” Belkin director Nico Verhoeven said. “We knew it would be very hard for us to stay on the podium in Paris.”

Despite bleeding time in Chorges, Verhoeven added that Mollema’s podium dream still lives. As Contador and Kreuziger hatch their plans to overthrow Froome, they must keep an eye on upstart Mollema.

“He’s a serious rider,” Mauduit said. “I remember him when I was working with Cervélo a few years ago. We looked at him and we were in contact with his agent, but then the team stopped and so did our talks.

“He’s a good one for the future. Maybe this year he’s too tender, but we have to be careful and watch him. Before he was just happy to be in the top three and was riding defensively, but he’ll now have to attack to get on the podium.”