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"When I topped the Cauberg for the last time I was better placed than at the finish. I believe I was sixth at the top. I do like the new final though. It’s a lot more open, but looking back, you can safely say that it was not adv...








15.04.2013 @ 09:59 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

Bauke Mollema (Blanco) carried the expectations of the home nation in yesterday's Dutch classic, Amstel Gold Race. He took an acceptable 10th place but it could have been much better, had the race kept its usual finish at the top of the Cauberg.


The Blanco team and its predecessor Rabobank are used to carrying a huge responsibility in the early stages of the Amstel Gold Race. Each year their countrymen have huge expectations for their biggest home team and they like to see them right at the pointy end of the race.


Unfortunately, the team has found it difficult to deliver the goods in recent years and in yesterday's race they were more of an outsider team. Nonetheless, the team took on its usual duties and shared much of the early pace-setting with the Cannondale team.


Bauke Mollema was the man expected to deliver the goods and with top 10 places in all of the Ardennes classics last year, the young Dutchman was expected to be right at the pointy end of the race. However, illness forced him to miss his final preparation race in the Basque Country and hence he was a little uncertain how his legs would react in the long, hard race.


As the main group hit the bottom of the Cauberg climb for the final time, Mollema was still there but he was unable to follow the furious acceleration of Philippe Gilbert. Instead he ended up in the chase group which caught the trio of Gilbert, Alejandro Valverde and Simon Gerrans just on the line.


Even though Mollema is a fast finisher, he only ended up 10th in the final sprint. Last year the race finished at the top of the Cauberg but this year the riders had to tackle 1800m of flat roads after the climb.


New finish unfavourable

The Dutchman was one of the strongest on the ascent and even though he praised the new finish, it had not favoured his chances in today's race.


"The new finish was a bit to my disadvantage," he said. "When I topped the Cauberg for the last time I was better placed than at the finish. I believe I was sixth at the top. I do like the new final though. It’s a lot more open, but looking back, you can safely say that it was not advantageous for me today."


Before the final sprint the team had played an offensive role with Lars-Petter Nordhaug and David Tanner both in the group of eventual winner Roman Kreuziger. While Tanner was dropped on the Geulhemmerweg with less than 20km remaining, Nordhaug was only caught on the lower slopes of the Cauberg.


Their presence in the front had made it an easier day for Mollema.


“I think as a team we rode a very good race," he said. "It was good that Lars Petter Nordhaug and David Tanner were in the lead group in the final; I was able to wait and see and that was nice, because I was still fairly fresh. The boys kept me out the wind and up front and I really did not spend much energy unnecessarily."


Optimistic ahead of remaining classics

He now turns his attention to the Fleche Wallonne and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege in which the longer climbs should suit him better. Having been reassured by his own condition, he is optimistic ahead of the next challenges.


“This race gives me the inspiration for the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège," he said. "I was in the running in the final and that leaves me with a good feeling.”


Nordhaug missed great opportunity

Nordhaug joined the team from Sky prior to the season but the winner of last year's Grand Prix de Montreal has been unable to find his best form in the early part of the season. However, he seemed to be back to his best just at the right time with a very strong performance in yesterday's race.


"I am glad that I am back up to snuff," he said. "My start with Blanco was not as I had hoped and physically I was struggling, but now I’m back at the level where I want to be."


However, it could have been even better for the Norwegian. He felt that he had the power to go with Roman Kreuziger when he attacked with 7km to go and as the Czech ended up winning the race, he had probably missed a great opportunity.


"I only regret my decision not to go with Kreuziger in the final lap," he said. "I felt really good at that moment but was hoping that others would bridge the gap. I have the feeling that I let a chance on the win pass me by, but that’s cycling. Other guys who were up front may well have the same feeling but Kreuziger was simply the strongest and the sharpest today.”


Maasen moderately satisfied

Sports director Frans Maasen was not completely satisfied with the result but given the circumstances he had every reason to be satisfied.


“We raced today like we wanted to, but unfortunately we don’t have the result to show for it," he said. "You’re hoping for a top ten result. Unfortunately, Lars Petter and Bauke came up short in the sprint. If you consider where we were a week ago with Bauke sick in bed, we turned in a solid performance today. After Philippe Gilbert’s crash, we took the initiative and took it to the competition. It was a good initiative.”


Today's result was the second consecutive 10th place for Mollema in the race.



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