Chris Froome retains yellow jersey at Tour de France

Chris Froome survived a scare to retain the yellow jersey as Bauke Mollema won stage 15 of the Tour de France to Le Puy-en-Velay.

Chris Froome still in yellow after Stage 15 despite having to stop for a wheel change. Picture: Getty.
Chris Froome still in yellow after Stage 15 despite having to stop for a wheel change. Picture: Getty.

Dutchman Mollema attacked in the closing stages of the 189.5km ride from Laissac-Severac L’Eglise to take the first Tour win of his career.

Froome needed a wheel change approaching the Col de Peyra Taillade, and lost almost a minute before an 8km chase back to the main contenders.

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But the three-time Tour winner held on and retains his lead of 18 seconds over Italian Fabio Aru, with Frenchman Romain Bardet a further five secondsback.

Bardet’s AG2R La Mondiale team had upped the pace as the category one Peyra Taillaide approached with 40km left, and had already distanced Froome once before the Team Sky man was forced to pull over.

He took a quick wheel change from Michal Kwiatkowski before Mikel Nieve and Sergio Henao helped pace him up the climb.

“I had a problem with my rear wheel that had to be changed,” Froome said. “Kwaitkowski gave me his wheel because the team car was far away.We did all we could to return to the top of the race. Thanks to my team-mates, Sergio Henao and Mikel Nieve, who helped me. I thought I might not see the lead again.”

After Nieve peeled off, Froome was forced to chase alone before Mikel Landa, pictured above, answered questions about his loyalty by dropping out of the lead group to finish the job, and Froome clung on as Bardet tried a brief attack before the summit.

“All the team did nice work,” Landa said. “We had a difficult moment but we worked like a team to save the day.”

It looked like a missed opportunity for Froome’s rivals as they could not capitalise on the effort he had spent making his way back over some of the steepest sections of the climb – hearing boos from the strongly pro-Bardet crowd as he went.

The main contenders marked each other over the rolling final kilometres, but Irishman Dan Martin was allowed to pull clear with 8km left and claw back more time.

The Quick-Step Floors rider picked up 13 seconds to move up to fifth place ahead of Landa, 72 seconds off yellow.

It had been clear since midway through the day that stage honours would go to the breakaway, with Sky happy to let a 28-man group pull away.

German Tony Martin tried a long-range attack, but after the Katusha-Alpecin man was caught on the Peyra Taillade, there were a series of attacks and counter-attacks.

Trek-Segafredo’s Mollema attacked on the descent of the Peyra Taillade, and held off a chasing group of Warren Barguil, Primoz Roglic, Diego Ulissi, and Tony Gallopin over the final categorised climb, the Cote de Saint-Vidal.

“It’s really amazing,” Mollema said. “I’m so happy to win a stage at the Tour de France. I’ve worked for it so hard. That was a big goal for me. It is the biggest win of my career.”

Nairo Quintana’s bid for Tour glory this year looks to be over after he cracked on the Peyra Taillaide and tumbled out of the top 10.