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Mollema joins a four-rider group on the final climb and the quartet stays away to the finish where the Dutchman beats Hansen convincingly in the uphill sprint

Photo: Belkin Pro Cycling Team

BAUKE MOLLEMA

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JESPER HANSEN

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LARS PETTER NORDHAUG

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MARC DE MAAR

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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TOUR OF NORWAY

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UNITEDHEALTHCARE PRO CYCLING

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24.05.2014 @ 19:03 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One day after Sep Vanmarcke's big win in the first ever summit finish of the race, Bauke Mollema made it two in a row for Belkin in the Tour of Norway when the Dutchman won today's big stage to Lillehammer. Mollema created the selection on the final climb and was joined by three other riders to form a quartet that held off a strong group of chasers. In the end, he easily beat Jesper Hansen (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the uphill sprint while Marc De Maar (UnitedHealthCare) reduced his time loss sufficiently to keep the lead.

 

Bauke Mollema (Belkin) proved that he is already back to form after his short post-classics break when he won today's hardest stage of the Tour of Norway. 24 hours after his teammate Sep Vanmarcke had emerged as the strongest in stage 3, it was Mollema who showed great climbing legs today.

 

Having led the peloton onto the final climb, Belkin had clearly shown their intentions but stayed calm when Ruben Fernandez (Caja Rural) and Odd Eiking (Joker Merida) took off. They didn't react either when Jesper Hansen made the next attack but then it was time for Mollema to kick into action.

 

The Dutchman quickly made it back to Hansen and the pair also easily picked up Eiking. Fernandez crested the summit as the lone leader but with more than 20km to go, the Spaniard quickly realized that it was a good idea to wait for his chasers.

 

The quartet worked well together to build up a gap of more than 30 seconds while behind the group of race leader Marc de Maar had splintered to pieces. The chase didn't get organized until more riders had rejoined from behind by which time IAM and CCC Polsat committed fully to the task.

 

From there it was a fierce pursuit all the way to the finish but as the front quartet worked well together, they managed to stay clear. When they passed the flamme rouge, it was clear that the stage winner would be one of those four riders.

 

Mollema was also riding for GC and so he took the responsibility to set the pace when the road started to point upwards again inside the final kilometre. Disaster struck for Eiking in one of the final turns as the young Norwegian hit the deck, also taking Fernandez out of contention.

 

Up ahead, Mollema made a long sprint from the front and easily held off Hansen, even putting three seconds into his Danish rival. Behind, the peloton had come really close and Mollema's teammate Lars Petter Nordhaug launched a fierce attack on the finishing straight to cross the line in third while Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural) won the sprint of the chase group in the same time as Nordhaug.

 

Marc De Maar was lucky that IAM and CCC did a lot of work to reduce his time loss and when he crossed the line in the chase group, he had defended his overall lead. He takes his narrow 3-second lead over Maciej Paterski (CCC) into tomorrow's final stage. The first part contains a bit climb before it flattens out but it all comes to an exciting end with a difficult finishing lap in Hønefoss. It will be covered four times and includes a short, steep climb to the finish, meaning that all is still to play for in the Norwegian race.

 

The hardest stage

After yesterday's first ever summit finish, the riders in the Tour of Norway faced the hardest stage of the race that brought them over 195km from Brumunddal to Lillehammer. The first part of the stage was mostly flat with only one categorized climb but the stage ended with two laps of a difficult finishing circuit that included a very difficult climb. From the top, a little more than 20km remained and they were either downhill or flat before it again kicked up to the finish line in Lillehammer.

 

The riders again escaped the Norwegian rain as they faced sunny conditions and high temperatures. Two riders didn't make the start as Christer Jensen (M3) and Magnus Børresen (Øster Hus) both abandoned the race.

 

The break takes off

Right from the gun 12 riders attacked but they were soon brought back. The attacking continued for a long time but after 25km of racing, no one had got any significant gap.

 

The elastic napped when Alexander Serov (Rusvelo), Stian Remme (FixIT), Krister Hagen (Øster Hus) and Amund Grøndahl (Sparebanken) got clear. At the 31km mark, they had a one-minute gap and it had already grown to 7.20 after 40km of racing.

 

IAM lead the chase

Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) attacked from the peloton but soon realized that it was impossible to bridge across. The gap had now come up to 8.10 and so IAM started to chase to set up Gustav Erik Larsson for the overall win.

 

While Remme beat Serov and Grøndahl in the first intermediate sprint, Sebastien Hinault set a steady pace for IAM and brought the gap down to 7.15. Belkin briefly joined the Swiss team until Hinault again took over.

 

IAM and Belkin  work hard

With 95km to go, he had brought the gap down to 4.50. At this point Grøndahl beat Hagen, Remme and Serov in the first KOM sprint while Sep Vanmarcke made sure to cross the line in fifth to defend his lead in the competition.

 

IAM and Belkin were now again sharing the responsibility and as they started their first lap of the finishing circuit, they had been joined by Topsport. At this point, the gap was down to 3.30, with Vanmarcke working hard on the front.

 

The break is caught

As they hit the climb for the first time, Serov was dropped from the front group while Edward Beltran (Tinkoff-Saxo) attacked from the peloton. While Vanmarcke swung off for today. Beltran gave up and was brought back by the peloton where Stef Clement was now setting the pace for Belkin.

 

Grøndahl was second at the top of the climb to take over the KOM lead but that was as much as he would get out of his efforts as Belkin brought the group back with 41km to go. As they passed the finish line for the penultimate time, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) beat Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM) and Nordhaug in the intermediate sprint.

 

Enger ups the pace

The front group was composed of around 40 riders by the time they hit the final climb. Sondre Holste Enger (Sparebanken Sør) set a brutal pace at the bottom to set up his teammate Bjorn Tore Hoem for an attack.

 

The fast pace was too much for Kristoff who got dropped before Hoem launched his attack. However, Fernandez quickly made a counterattack and passed the lone Norwegian.

 

IAM back to work

The peloton was now down to less than 20 riders and Gerald Ciolek (MTN) was still there. Jonathan Fumeaux and Sebastien Reichenbach were leading the chase for IAM while Eiking took off.

 

IAM got a bit of assistance from CCC and they brought Hoem back while Eiking was still up the road. With 25km to go, Beltran attacked again but he had still no luck.

 

Mollema makes his move

Instead, his teammate Hansen made a move and he seemed to be stronger. While Ciolek fell off the pacem he started to open a gap.

 

Moments later, Mollema made his move and he quickly bridged the gap to Hansen. The pair also caught Eiking while behind the peloton had exploded to pieces, Larsson being one of the riders to get dropped.

 

A fierce chase

Nordhaug and Maciej Paterski (CCC) got close to bridging the gap but finally gap up and fell back to the 4-rider yellow jersey group. Up ahead, Fernandez crested the summit as the lone leader before waiting for his chasers.

 

Several riders joined the yellow jersey group on the descent and CCC and IAM were now chasing hard. Wiht 13km to go, however, they were still 27 seconds behind while Ciolek had also rejoined the main group.

 

Bad luck for Eiking

With 9km to go, the gap was 26 seconds  and the escapees still had 20 seconds with 4km to go. As they passed the flamme rouge, it was clear that they would stay away though.

 

Mollema hit the front to keep the pace high while disaster struck for Eiking when he crashed in a turn. Fernandez was also held up and so all Mollema had to do was to beat Hansen in the sprint which he did convincingly.

 

Nordhaug made a late attack to take third while De Maar finished in the bunch to defend his overall lead.

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