The Dutch climber rebounds with a big effort in the breakaway after a disappointing first day in the mountains
After a disappointing stage four that saw the team’s general classification hopes all but dashed, Bauke Mollema rose to the occasion in stage five, joining the day’s breakaway and finishing in second place behind Simon Clarke (Education First-Drapac) in a three-up sprint.
It was day red-circled for a breakaway, and when Bauke Mollema and Gianluca Brambilla lost significant time in the first summit finish yesterday, Trek-Segafredo’s game plan changed to only chasing stage wins.
“I like racing like this, racing aggressive and going for the breakaways. I did this for the last 10 days of the Tour, and also here it was already my goal before the Vuelta to not go for the GC but fight for the stage wins. I was close today, and I am sure there will be an opportunity in the next two and a half weeks,” said Mollema.
After a furious start, Mollema and Brambilla both managed to get into the large breakaway that formed late in the race. With 25 riders and not much organization, it was not long before the attacks began that split the breakaway.
With Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) up the road with some 60 kilometers to go, it was Mollema and Simon Clarke who attacked on a descent to join the Italian in the lead.
“I felt good the whole day and really wanted to go for the breakaway today. It was a big fight, and finally, I made it. There were 2500 altitude meters but the last 20kms was downhill and flat, and since I had the goal to be in the break today, I wanted to be as aero as possible, so I think it was a good choice to go with the Madone,” explained Mollema on using the Madone over his usual Emonda bike. “Not only for the finale and sprint, but also when Clarke and I bridged to De Marchi on the downhill. I felt fast on the downhills, that was good, so I could save some energy.”
The trio worked well together until Mollema had a puncture on the final climb.
“I didn’t have to spend too much energy to come back after my puncture – I came back after 2kms already – but it was a bad moment because it was the last hard part of the climb and I was thinking about attacking at that moment. It was the plan to attack on the last climb, but [with the puncture] that was not possible anymore,” said Mollema.
Cresting the top with 45 seconds on a chasing group, the three leaders increased their lead on the descent. In the final flat run-in, they had 80 seconds, and the tactical games began.
“The three of us worked well together until the final when no one wanted to pull anymore, and the guys from behind almost came back,” said Mollema. “It was not up to me to pull, and I was hoping Clarke would get a little bit nervous and start to pull early.
“Clarke is pretty fast,” Mollema continued. “I tried to attack once, with around 5kms to go, but he was straight away on my wheel, and also when De Marchi tried, he was straightaway on his wheel.
“Then I just gambled for the sprint – I wanted to start in the last position. I was hoping that the guys behind would come back, or almost come back, and he would get a little bit nervous, but in the end, we still had enough seconds on them. It was a nice tactical final, but Clarke was the fastest today; I am happy with how I felt and how the legs were.”
Bauke Mollema was awarded the Most Aggressive rider for the race, some consolation for just missing out on the victory.
Only five stages into the three-week Grand Tour, Trek-Segafredo already has two second-place finishes. With many opportunities still ahead, the signs are looking good for a win.