Bauke Mollema wins the uphill sprint and gives Trek-Segafredo its second win of the day
Bauke Mollema sprinted to the uphill victory in stage two at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali to give Trek-Segafredo its second win of the day after Jarlinson Pantano won stage five in the Volta a Catalunya earlier.
It was a big win for the Dutchman who had been fighting an infection during Paris-Nice and was using the Italian race to find back his form:
“I am happy with the win today, especially after the last two weeks; I was not feeling too good, my blood values were not good, and I was feeling tired all the time. In Paris-Nice I could see something was off: I didn’t have the right legs, and I couldn’t train very hard in the last weeks. Luckily in the last couple of days, I already felt much better.
“Only on Monday evening did we decide that I could start here, and I was not sure about the form and how my body would react to racing again. But yesterday already I felt really good. It’s strange how things can change in one week’s time.”
Stage two saw a short but challenging course that whittled the peloton to six riders by the last kilometers. Mollema started the day with good sensations but admitted he faltered towards the end, and only with help from teammate Nicola Conci was able to rejoin the front:
“It was quite a short stage, 130kms only, but it was really hard: all day up and down, tricky downhills, steep climbs, so it was a very hard stage actually the whole day. In the final, we had a circuit we did twice, and the last climb three times – it was a pretty hard climb of 5-6kms.
“I felt good at the start but then after I was not so sure anymore of my legs. In one moment I got dropped on a descent when someone opened a gap in front of me, and I was 30secs back of the first riders. Luckily Nicola was with me, and he did a great job to pull me back on one of the climbs and when I came back to the front, there were only 30 guys left.”
I saw the video from last year when Toms Skujins won this same stage, and he did it perfect. So I knew what I had to do.
Once back in the fold, Mollema rebounded. The last climb pared the leading group to the strongest climbers, and the fight for the win was between six riders as they headed for one last time up a sharp, cobbled climb to the line.
“On the last climb with 10k to go, we were only 6-7 riders,” Mollema explained. “There were some attacks, but more or less we came together for the last 300 meters uphill sprint. It was around 8% but tricky because it was also cobbled and there was one smooth section in the middle that you had to be on.
“I saw the video from last year when Toms Skujins won this same stage, and he did it perfect: he went first into the corner with 300meters to go, and he made a big gap. So I knew what I had to do. There was still one rider in front of me with a few seconds, and I had to go on the cobbles to go around him, and you lose all the speed. I was a little afraid of the others at this point, but they had to do the same. Luckily it worked out, and I am really happy.”
The race continues with a flat stage for stage 3 and ends with a time trial Sunday. Bauke Mollema is seven seconds behind Diego Rosa (Team Sky) in the overall classification, which will more than likely be decided in the race against the clock the final day.
“It will probably come down to the TT,” agreed Mollema. “It is really hard with a steep climb also, so we will see.”