Mollema second (again) in thrilling stage 9 at La Vuelta

Bauke gives a valiant chase but unable to close to King in the mountain finish

Bauke Mollema had to settle for second place again after joining the breakaway in stage nine at the Vuelta Sunday. It was a courageous effort by Mollema after he attacked out of the chasing group and set off in pursuit of Ben King (Dimension Data) on the final climb but fell short of catching back the American and had to settle for second place – the team’s third of the race.

“I am disappointed, I just couldn’t close the gap,” said Mollema. “I could see him just in front of me. I came back from 1’40” to 15 seconds, but it was just too hard to close. It’s a pity because I felt good all day.”

The 11-man breakaway was given enough lead, almost 10 minutes at one point, to fight for the win, and it was an excellent opportunity for Mollema – the strongest climber in the leading group – but tactics won the day.

Luis Angel Gomez/BettiniPhoto©2018

“It was a nice day in the break again. In the last 20-25kms the group started attacking and suddenly [King] got a gap. He started the climb with a little bit too big of an advantage to close and yeah, that’s a pity,” Mollema continued.

While King rode away and quickly gained time, the rest of the breakaway group eyed one another over the rolling pitches. When the climb legitimately started, Mollema knew it was now or never:  His attack left the others behind, and he settled into an eight-kilometer pursuit. The gap stood at one minute and thirty seconds.

Luis Angel Gomez/BettiniPhoto©2018

©Photogomez Sport

Mollema quickly ate into King’s lead – it appeared the American, who was now struggling ahead, would soon be caught.  But when the climb flattened slightly in the final four kilometers, King got a second-wind while Mollema was still dealing with the steeper gradient behind.

The gap stabilized.

Three kilometers to go and it was at 20 seconds. There was enough distance remaining, but as the meters melted away, the duel was at a stalemate. Two kilometers and still 20. And then King’s lead began to grow ever so slightly – at the red kite it had increased to 30 seconds.  It was over.

It was another fantastic fight by the Dutchman, and a great battle that thrilled all, but the win eluded him once more.

With more hard climbing stages ahead, there is one thing that is certain: Mollema will try again.

Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2018