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Mollema to race Giro, support Contador at Tour

ALTEA, Spain (VN) — Bauke Mollema will race the Giro d’Italia next season, and make room for Alberto Contador and the Spaniard’s perhaps last run at the Tour de France. VeloNews caught up with the Dutch rider at Trek – Segafredo’s team camp in Spain.

The racing schedule is fine for the 30-year-old, who says he will be aiming to win the pink jersey before slotting into a helper’s role at the Tour.

“It’s a big motivation to go to the Giro to try to win,” Mollema said. “ It will be the first time I’ve been back to the Giro since 2010. That was my very first grand tour, and I remember how hard it was. So to go back next year with real ambitions to win is a new challenge.”

Since joining Trek in 2015, Mollema carried the team’s GC hopes at the Tour. He rode to an encouraging seventh overall in 2015, and followed that up with 11th last year, which saw him within podium range until a costly crash on the penultimate mountain stage.

“It’s a bit of both disappointment to be so close to the podium and to lose it for a crash, but also some satisfaction, because I was really strong in the Tour last year,” he said. “It’s funny, because I have three times before finished in the top-10, and last year, I was 11th, but I know that I was the strongest I’ve ever been.”

The arrival of Contador changes the calculus inside Trek – Segafredo for 2017. The Spaniard signed a one-year deal with a one-year option, and has already said he would retire if he wins the Tour next season. Team management promised to back Contador for what could be his final chance to win the yellow jersey.

Mollema said he’s on board with the plan. He penned a two-year extension to stay with Trek – Segafredo through 2018.

“I am really looking forward to racing with Alberto,” he said. “He is a big champion, so I hope I can learn some things from him. How he prepares and how he races. What’s sure is that if I do the Giro for GC, I cannot also race the Tour for the GC.”

Mollema and Contador will hit some of the early season races together, debuting in Argentina and then at Abu Dhabi and split the European stage race calendar ahead of the grand tours.

Buoyed by his strong yet ultimately disappointing Tour performance, Mollema will enter the Giro with ambitions of at least reaching the final podium and perhaps even winning.

Dutch cycling has been in a long grand tour rut. The last Dutch rider to win a grand tour was Joop Zoetemelk in 1980. And it’s been since the 1990s, with Erik Breukink at the Giro, since a Dutchman has been on a grand tour podium.

They’ve been close, with Tom Dumoulin riding into the final mountain stage only to fall short at the 2015 Vuelta a España. Steven Kruijswijk also had bad luck at the Giro last year, crashing into a snow bank in the Alps in the closing climbing stages while wearing the pink jersey.

“Dutch fans have been waiting a long time, but we have some good riders coming up right now,” Mollema said. “I hope it’s me who can make them happy. Maybe at the Giro this year.”