The Dutch climber sprints to 2nd place in Stage 1 of the five-day race
It did not take long for Bauke Mollema to signal his return from a six-week pause from competition with 2nd place in Stage 1 of the Skoda-Tour de Luxembourg. Mollema’s well-earned hiatus began after he finished the Tour de France – where he won Stage 14 – followed by a 4th place in the Tokyo Olympics and 10th in San Sebastian – a quick succession of long-traveled races.
Arriving from the European Championships Sunday, Bauke had attained some hard race miles and was ready for the punchy finish of the opening day in Luxembourg.
The day’s breakaway was caught back inside the final seven kilometers just after the penultimate climb by a fresh peloton hungry for a win and a leader’s jersey on the line.
Julien Bernard helped position Bauke until the final uphill, leaving the Dutch climber to navigate the remaining uphill and downhill kilometers amongst a vastly reduced bunch.
The savvy Bauke had little problem putting himself into a good position as the small bunch geared up for a sprint finish, but João Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick Step) thwarted victory when he sped from behind on the far left to snatch the win.
I think we can be happy with how things went today. Our intent was to keep an eye on the race, mainly to control the breakaway, both from a GC and stage point of view. Alex [Kirsch] did a really good job pulling for almost the entire race. We took the responsibility to help other teams because we saw the group on the front was riding strong and, with three minutes, it was good to do our part. In the short stages here, it’s important to keep the situation under control.
- Bauke Mollema
Actually I didn't feel so good during the day. I think I felt in my legs the effort of the European Championships and the day of travel. I managed to stay under cover as much as possible, waiting see how the feeling was for the finale.
With me was also Vincenzo [Nibali] and Mattias [Skjelmose], but both didn’t have great feeling and so, in the last 20kms, I came to the front to play my chance, and also because we had a lot of corners and the road was slippery.
At the end, it went better than expected. We covered the final short climb pretty fast and we were about 40 riders, but the game for the win was played by the 20 guys who really had enough forces to sprint. I was in a good position in the last corner, I just thought to launch my sprint at 200 meters to go. Almeida passed me really fast in the last 20 meters, there was not much I could do better. Being the first day, I’m quite happy and satisfied and I am looking forward to the next days.