GUILIN, China (VN) — Dutchman Bauke Mollema races into 2018 knowing his job for the Tour de France and confident of his position, even with grand tour great Alberto Contador retired from the Trek-Segafredo team.
Contador retired from cycling with seven grand tour victories and a win on the Angliru stage of the Vuelta a España one day before he stepped away from the sport in September. With the Spaniard gone, Mollema is Trek’s clear Tour leader.
“Two years ago it was the same,” Mollema told VeloNews. “I think we will be competitive all around with good sprinters and classics riders. For the GC, I think Gianluca Brambilla will try in the Giro d’Italia, Jarlinson Pantano can step up and get his chance.
“The team has many young guys with talent who can develop over the next few years. In general, we have good guys and a decent team. We are losing Contador, but making a step ahead with the riders we have.”
Mollema posed the biggest threat to Sky’s Chris Froome at one point in the 2016 Tour when he sat second overall with two mountain stages remaining. He crashed and slipped out the the overall classification to finish 11th, however.
“I was seventh the year before, and sixth too. I believe in a good overall in the Tour. With the level I had in 2016 in the Tour, especially the consistency I showed this year.”
Mollema began 2017 with an overall victory at the Tour de San Juan. He raced to seventh overall at the Giro d’Italia and in the Tour, with Contador suffering due to crashes, he brought Trek a stage victory.
On Tuesday, Mollema finished the six-day Tour of Guangxi in second place overall, six seconds behind winner Tim Wellens of Lotto-Soudal.
Mollema said he learned some things riding next to Contador this year.
“Of course, for the team it’s a loss because Alberto Contador was always competitive and strong. Of course, I will miss him in the team. It was good to race with him in the Tour to look at him and see how he’s doing things,” Mollema said.
“He’s always positive and always keeps going, even in the Tour after he crashed, he kept going and kept fighting. That was nice to see and it was nice to ride with him this year.
“I really want to focus next year on the Tour. It’ll be my big goal to fight there with the best guys in the Tour de France. I think I can do it and be there or on the same level as in 2016.”