Mollema 2nd in Ruta del Sol summit finish, clinches 3rd overall


“These are the days I like most: mountain stage with 1st uphill finish of the season.”

These are the words Bauke Mollema tweeted ahead of the final stage in Vuelta a Andalucia (Ruta del Sol) and by the top he made good on his statement, crossing the line in second place and clinching third place in the overall classification.

“I felt good the whole day and the whole week I have felt good on the uphills,” Mollema said. “Today I found the confirmation I was looking for in the first stage race of the season and quite a hard parcours this week. I am satisfied, I was hoping to go for the win, but yeah I think Valverde was too strong today, so he deserved it. I think I got the maximum out of it and also to finish on the podium of the general classification. It was a good day, the boys worked hard today, everyone did their best to help me as much as possible. It was a good test this week.”

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won the stage after he launched a solo attack at the mid-way point of the final 14-kilometer ascent. Valverde gained a minute’s advantage before race leader Tejay van Garderen (BMC) responded at three kilometers to go.

Bauke Mollema and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) were the only ones able to match the American’s acceleration, and the trio pulled within 40 seconds of Valverde one-kilometer from the line.

“It was quite early when Valverde went, seven kilometers to go, and it was a really strong attack; he’s an explosive guy, and I could not follow at that moment,” explained Mollema. “Afterward, the speed in our group went down a little bit as riders were looking to each other. The speed was not fast enough, so he took 30 seconds quickly, and it was not up to me to chase since I was about 15th in GC before today. So I was waiting for the other guys to go and in the last kilometer I could do my thing.”

Within the final 600 meters, Mollema jumped from behind van Garderen and opened an immediate gap to seal second on the stage, 36 seconds after Valverde. The late attack allowed Mollema to gain a few precious seconds advantage, which proved crucial in the final GC calculations when he bettered Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) for the final podium step by a mere four seconds.

“I knew I was 20-30 seconds behind four or five riders, and I looked back once [on the climb] because I was not sure of the differences at that moment so I just wanted to go full until the finish,” continued Mollema. “At the end, I think it was only four seconds ahead of the fourth place. It was all I can do. I am happy, especially uphill the feeling is good.

“I have been training a lot in the mountains the last couple of months, more than I have in the past because I want to keep improving myself as a climber, and I think today was a good confirmation for that. I am looking forward to Tirreno [Adriatico] and the next races.”

We reached team director Alain Gallopin after the race, and he summed up Sunday’s final stage and the week:

“The feeling I had at the beginning of this stage today is that we can win it,” said director Alain Gallopin. “And Bauke’s finish today confirmed my feelings. We ended with two times second in stages and a third GC, maybe not a win as we hoped, but confirmation we are where we want to be.

“Bauke did a nice Chrono yesterday, and I expected a lot today. That’s why Bauke was waiting, waiting. Valverde looked very strong, and tactically we decided to wait and jump at the last moment. It was not up to us to work for BMC; they pulled all day, maybe for me a little bit too much, and we waited until the end.

“Bauke was good and this I knew from the beginning.”

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