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Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing) concluded his season in high style on Sunday, winning the Japan Cup Cycle Road Race in Utsunomiya.
The 28-year-old Mollema edged out Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) and Yukiya Arashiro (Japan National Team) at the end of the 144km race, run on a 10.3km circuit in the city that hosted the 1990 world championships.
The Kogashi forest climb took a toll throughout the race, trimming the peloton to nine riders by the final lap.
The last time up the climb the group shrank to three with Mollema, Ulissi and Sky’s Sebastian Henao summiting with a few seconds’ advantage. Arashiro bridged on the descent, and a few other stragglers caught on as well, but the final uphill to the finish left the four strongest to contest the sprint.
“I was just following attacks until the last time up the climb, and then I saved all my energy for the finish,” Mollema said. “I knew it would most likely come to a sprint with a small group and it was better to save all my energy for this, but I still was not sure to win because the others were faster than me, but in the end I was strong enough to do it.”
Mollema praised his team for keeping him in the hunt, and tipped his hat to the spectators as well.
“This is my first time in Japan, and I have to say that the fans are just unbelievable, just crazy for cycling! It was really nice to see,” said Mollema.