Mollema third in the summit finish of the opening race of the Challenge Mallorca
Bauke Mollema climbed his way onto the podium in the opening race of the Challenge Mallorca, a windy and nervous race that ended on a five-kilometer climb to the monastery of San Salvador.
A nasty crash in the run-in to the bottom of the climb split the bunch, landing a few riders a trip to the hospital and leaving around 30 riders to fight out the win.
On the ascent, while the favorites eyed each other, Jesús Herrada (Cofidis) and Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) attacked around midway and gained enough time to hold off the chase and take one-two on the stage, respectively.
“It was tactical on the last climb, it was not a hard tempo all the time, just some attacks at the bottom and everybody was looking at each other, especially to Valverde since he was the big favorite for today on a finish like this,” explained Mollema.
“I think the first two riders attacked halfway and got a gap at that moment, maybe 20 seconds, and then it was just some attacks, but all the time accelerating, stopping, accelerating, stopping. So, in the end, those two were too far ahead, and in the last 3-400 meters, we were just six-seven guys left.
I knew the climb well since we had been training here a lot in the last month, so I knew where to start the sprint, and I started with 300 meters to go, but those two were still in the front.
Mollema sprinted across the line for third place, nearly catching Martin who just held on for second, and ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), in fourth, and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), in fifth.
It was not a pleasant welcome back for the riders in their first race of a new season, with the windy conditions and looming uphill finish making for a nervous day on the saddle. Trek-Segafredo avoided any serious injury in a massive crash with 19 kilometers remaining that knocked Mikel Landa (Movistar) and the most combative rider for the race, neo-pro Iversen Rasmus (Lotto Soudal), out of the race with possible fractured shoulders.
The wind made it even more tactical in the climb, it was a strong wind the whole day, and it was a nervous day. There was a lot of crashes also, some big crashes, and I think everyone from us is okay, but some guys already broke their collarbones. A pretty hectic first race day of the year!