Winning breeds confidence. That’s what Bauke Mollema and his Trek – Segafredo teammates are hoping for following a hot start to the 2017 season with an overall victory at the Tour de San Juan.
Mollema survived a final-day ambush from archrival Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain – Merida to wrap up what is only the second GC win of his career. With the 30-year-old Dutchman targeting the Giro d’Italia in May, the early season victory bodes well.
“I have not won so many stage races, and it’s nice for me to start the year like this,” Mollema said Sunday in Argentina. “It’s a good sign after the win, and it says something about my level at this moment. It sets a good pace for the rest of the year.”
The seven-day stage race in Argentina was an ideal way for Mollema to rev up his engine for the 2017 season. He was second in the time trial stage and fifth in the key climbing stage, enough to push him into the lead. Spanish veteran Oscar Sevilla of Medellín – Inder was the runner-up, finishing 14 seconds behind.
With Alberto Contador sliding across as the leader for the Tour de France, Mollema is taking on the challenge of racing for pink at the Giro this May. In an interview with VeloNews at a team training camp over the winter, Mollema said he’s more ambitious than ever this season.
“When I first came to Trek [in 2015], it took me a bit to get used to being the main GC leader. Now I am more comfortable and I gain confidence that the team is working for me,” Mollema said. “I am very excited about this season. The big goal is the Giro, and I think I have a good chance there.”
The 2010 Giro was Mollema’s first grand tour, and he rode to Milano with a promising 12th overall. After focusing on the Vuelta a España and the Tour, he returns to the Giro very much a different rider this May, with his eyes set on the pink jersey.
“The Giro is a race for fighters, and you have to be focused on that every day. That’s good for me,” Mollema said. “After racing the Tour the past three years, we thought it was a good idea to try something different. At the Giro, I can aim for the victory and then go to the Tour to help Alberto.”
Mollema takes quiet confidence out of last year’s Tour de France. Although his race fell apart in the final mountain stages when he crashed on rainy roads in stage 19 after defending second place in the previous day’s time trial, he eventually rolled into Paris 11th overall.
“Of course the final result was disappointing, but I was stronger and more consistent than I ever was in the Tour before,” he said. “I was really close to the podium, and that gives me motivation to keep working hard. I know I will have more chances at the Tour.”
Mollema carried that form out of the Tour last summer to win the Clásica San Sebastián, his most important one-day victory of his career. He also won the time trial and finished second overall at the Tour of Alberta. Now he sets his sights on the Giro.
Just like Richie Porte of BMC Racing winning his first race of 2017 at the Santos Tour Down Under, Mollema is hopeful the early success continues deep into the European racing calendar. Mollema is next penciled in to race the Abu Dhabi Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Volta a Catalunya before taking on the Giro.
“There are a lot of other races coming up,” Mollema said Sunday. “This motivates me even more, to keep working hard in the next weeks and months.”