Bauke puts his stamp on the Basque Classic with three podiums in three years
If there is ever a race that Bauke Mollema can call his own, it’s the Clásica San Sebastián that follows less than a week after the Tour de France ends.
Mollema won Clásica San Sebastián in 2016, finished in third place last year, and came close to victory again Saturday after his attack on the final steep climb could only be matched by one rider. Unfortunately, that rider was Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) who is fresh off winning two stages and the polka-dot climbers jersey at the Tour de France and bested Mollema in a two-up sprint to the line.
“I felt good,” said Mollema. “But then on the top Alaphilippe was with me. We worked well together – it was one kilometer flat at the top, so we went pretty fast there and had a big gap already. And then we went down also fast and then it was just the two of us, but you know he is also fast in the sprint. I tried to hang on a bit and let him do the work the last 2kms especially, but still, he was faster than me.”
As in previous years, the race was decided on the final 1.8-kilometer climb with a cruel steep section near the top between 15 and 18 percent gradient. It was here Mollema made his attack, similar to in 2016 when it proved to be the winning move.
“I was in perfect position already 5kms before the climb,” explained Mollema. “Koen de Kort, Julien Bernard and Toms (Skujins) did a really good leadout, so I was in the first five positions starting the climb. That was perfect so I could save some energy.
“There were some attacks in the middle, but then everyone was looking a bit to each other because the last 5-600meters were so steep. I was just waiting for that. I think the last 400 meters I just went by myself because the legs were still good, and I needed to drop some guys and be the first on the top.”
Three podiums, three years, with only five days of rest after the Tour de France. We asked Mollema what his secret is?
“I always recover well from the Tour, and that’s important,” he answered. “I always do a few crits (criteriums) this week, and that helps me keep in the rhythm, so the body is still activated and ready to go. I really like this race also – I love the weather, the people, the roads – and I have a good motivation since I know it’s a good chance to do a good result.
“In the end, it’s just power on the last climb; it’s a hard race with a lot of climbing, but in the last years, in the end, it all comes down to the last steep five minutes climb. I think that’s a good effort for me. Yeah, it’s nice to be on the podium again.”