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"It was a really strong effort because in the front they were pulling with several guys and he was more or less pulling alone.  He also helped put me in good position for the last climb - Bob did a really good job!”

Photo: Sirotti








08.04.2015 @ 21:37 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The 170.7-kilometer stage three at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco began the first sorting in the general classification with eight categorized climbs on the menu and it was the ridiculously steep Alto de la Antigua whose 20% gradients paired with passionate Basque fans that inflicted most of the damage.


The climb was tackled twice with the first ascent arriving with some 30 kilometers to pedal. The race blew to shreds on the narrow crazy uphill lined with hundreds of exuberant fans. Twenty riders moved clear over the top, while behind many riders were caught in a traffic-jam and forced to walk the last steep part. It was a dangerous moment in the race.


Bob Jungels was part of the first 20-rider group, but the team’s leader, Bauke Mollema, was missing, and the young Luxembourger didn’t hesitate in the crucial moment; he knew what he had to do, and his selfless actions helped pull Mollema back to the front.


Bob Jungels put his head down and rode Bauke Mollema back into contention before the second time up Alto de la Antigua.  


“Bauke was behind after the first time up the steep climb, and I waited for him on the bottom [of the descent]. There were also more good riders behind, Tejay van Garderen and a few other guys," he said.


“I told Bauke to stay in my wheel and I would bring him in the front before the last climb. I had a little bit of help from Atapuma [BMC], but he is a little Colombian climber and on the flats he was not so useful. In the end, it worked out pretty well.”


More than well. In fact, Bob Jungels put his head down and rode Bauke Mollema back into contention before the second time up Alto de la Antigua. 


“After the first time up the steep climb there were a lot of gaps," Mollema said. "Bob was in the first group of 20 riders and I was in the second 20 riders so he waited for me. He pulled for maybe 5-10k full gas to come back to the first group. It was a really strong effort because in the front they were pulling with several guys and he was more or less pulling alone.  He also helped put me in good position for the last climb - Bob did a really good job!”


The second and final time up the steep climb Mollema was in perfect position and he crested the climb in the top 10.  Three riders broke clear over the top and held their small advantage to the line with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) sprinting to the win. 


A four-man group was next to finish (+7”) while Mollema arrived with a small cluster of 11 riders moments later for 15th place (+10").


“It was a really hard day and it’s not even the queen stage! ” explained a tired Mollema at the finish. “Up and down, left and right, and dangerous descents all day, especially the last 60 or 70K. 


“I was close to be with the front group; I think I was seventh on the top on the last big climb and I wanted to pass a few guys in front of me, but it was so tight with all the spectators. That was a pity because maybe I could be like fourth over the top and then you go into the descent with a small advantage.


“I was with Kwiatkowski and Samuel Sanchez half-way down, but then lost their wheels in the last corners and finished three seconds behind those guys.”


Tomorrow’s stage four is considered the queen stage of the Tour of the Basque Country and ends with the race’s only summit finish. Thanks to Jungels’ sacrificial teamwork Mollema remains in striking distance of the overall podium ahead of a decisive climb that he likes better than the last climbs of today:


“I know the ending climb of tomorrow really well and it’s a climb that suits me better. I think I have done it five times already. It’s different than today, less steep and a little bit longer, and I think it’s good for me. But there is no doubt, the race will be hard again.”


Calvin Watson did not finish the stage, a result of a nasty crash. There are no broken bones, but he sustained abundant scrapes and bruises leaving him in considerable pain on the roadside.


“I came down just after the feed zone. When everyone is collecting the musettes it’s always a bit of a nightmare, and riders are going everywhere. I had my hands off the bars and hit a bump and I was down. That’s how my race finsihed. I lost a lot of skin," he said.


“It’s unfortunate; I came here and looking forward to supporting the team, but that’s bike racing. I have to stay positive, there are no broken bones and now I must look to recover to be back on form for the Ardennes Classics.”


And how did it feel for those riders like Fränk Schleck and Haimar Zubeldia who were forced to hoof it up a climb they would normally ride? Zubuldia explained the bizarre moment:


“The last part of the climb was so steep and with all the fans there was no place to go. The people tried to help push, but they didn’t look behind. It was a disaster! I also had a little problem with the bike, which didn’t help. But as soon as riders put a foot down you could not go again.”



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