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“I was there, but maybe I should have taken a bit more risk. Quintana was next to me, but his chain dropped off and he almost crashed and that’s why I hesitated a moment."

Photo: Sirotti






09.04.2015 @ 19:12 Posted by Andy Pedersen

Stage four of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco was advertised as the queen stage, but it was a 12-strong group that arrived to contest the finish after a relentless day of climbing that included seven categorized ascents and ended with a tough category one summit.


Bauke Mollema knew the final ascent well, which topped out two kilometers to go and then descended to the finish line.  He moved into the front positions leading into the final meters, but it was the speedy Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) who jumped first and held it to the line to seal the victory.


Mollema crossed in second place, just ahead of Simon Yates (Orica GreenEdge) who grabbed third.


“I knew the sprint, I have been here many times, and I knew you had to be in the first positions with 750 meters to go already,” explained Mollema to the “I was there, but maybe I should have taken a bit more risk. Quintana was next to me, but his chain dropped off and he almost crashed and that’s why I hesitated a moment, and then Rodriguez took 10-20 meters and he was just too fast to get him back.”


With 12 riders finishing in the same time and no time bonuses granted for the finishes the top of the leaderboard remained the same. Bauke Mollema jumped into fifth place but maintained the same 10-second gap, and it's all coming down to the final two stages to determine the final podium.


The 162.2-kilometer race started with a bang.  Numerous breakaways formed, but all were deemed too large, too powerful, and thus too threatening.  Team Sky, defending the leaders jersey, kept a firm grasp in the driver’s seat and neutralized all moves, including a large group that went clear around the 45-kilometer mark with Bob Jungels and Fabio Felline that looked promising.


“Again, I felt good today,” said Jungels, after another day of strong, solid teamwork. “I was trying to jump in the moves in the beginning and I managed to get in the break with Fabio, but they chased really hard.  It was a really hard race; we were all the time in the front.”


Eventually, four men wrestled free after over 60-kilometers had been raced and on the subsequent steep category-one Alto de Ixua the breakaway was cut in half. Finally, the pace slightly eased behind and Tom Danielson (Cannondale-Garmin) and Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) were off on a two-up time trial over some very tough alpine terrain.


“Oh yeah it was super hard all day,” echoed Mollema. “In the beginning it was really hard when a big group went. The guys did a good job jumping in the breakaway and that made it hard for everyone. That was good. And after it was never easy, not with Tony Martin in the front! You have to keep pushing in the peloton because you cannot give him five minutes.”


With two formidable men leading the race the accelerator continued to be pressed behind, and on the penultimate climb the gap had fallen to under 20 seconds.


Fabio Felline and Bob Jungels moved to the front over the descent and short run-in to the final decisive uphill, safeguarding Mollema in good position and keeping the pressure on. By the start of the final climb, the Martin-Danielson escape was taking its final breaths.


The first attacks happened with 5.5-kilometers to go and caused cracks in the leading group;  Mollema also looked to be in trouble hanging precariously at the back. Finally, two men broke free and grabbed a handful of seconds lead as Mollema gritted his teeth to stay with the group.


Despite the aggression, all the favorites crested together, and with just a fast downhill run-in for the final two kilometers a reduced bunch sprint ensued.


“In the end we took a good position for the last descent, and the boys kept pushing into the final climb to stay in front and make it harder. On the last climb I was not feeling as good as I hoped, but I kept pushing and managed to stay in the first group,” Mollema said.


“The end was fast, from the first pass of this last climb onward. I just focused to stay with Bauke and pace him and keep him in front. I knew I could not help him in the final climb anymore, so I decided to pull to help bring the two guys back, and because he wanted a hard race.  I think we achieved that! He finished second and that’s prefect - perfect for the next days,” Jungels said. 



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