As the rain teemed down the hotel in San Marino where riders changed after the Giro d’Italia‘s stage 9 time trial, interest in Bauke Mollema‘s unexpected third place in the time trial was such that the Trek-Segafredo racer staged an impromptu press conference.
Wrapped in warm weather gear from head to foot, capped with a team issue beanie, Mollema plonked himself behind a hotel desk and patiently fielded a lengthy series of interviews from media, including Cyclingnews.
Mollema has produced some solid results in the past in Italy’s Grand Tour, with seventh in the Giro in 2017, his last appearance in the race, and ninth in this year’s opening time trial in Bologna
But if Dutch media interest had swerved somewhat towards Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) in the Giro’s early days, it was another top Dutch racer who was fielding the questions after the San Marino chrono.
“I was expecting a good result, but maybe not this good,” Mollema, third on the stage at 1:00, told Cyclingnews.
“The first week and first TT went well, and I had good feelings on the flat part, especially. So I knew I could do a good TT today, with a lot of training on the time trial bike with the goal of doing well here.”
As for how the stage worked out, Mollema said “I was really focused on doing the climb, and making a difference there. My feelings there weren’t so good, but actually” – as he correctly pointed out – “maybe only Roglic was faster there, and I could gain on a lot of competitors.”
“It was hard at the start with the rain and the corners, so I took it quite easy, not to take too much risk. But there was a lot of false flats on the first section too, so it was maybe a TT for riders with a lot of power.”
“We had eight days in the legs already, so maybe some guys were already tired. That’s why I was so happy this time trial was just before the rest day and not after it. I think that made a big difference for some GC riders.”
If Mollema looks at the GC during his day’s break from racing, he’ll see he is now lying 12th overall, just behind Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), at 3:45 on overall leader Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates), and ahead of all the other pre-race favourites barring, of course, Roglic. So far, then his stated targets in this year’s Grand Tours to race the Giro for himself, before heading to the Tour de France as a support rider for Richie Porte, is going very much to plan.
“It was a good first week for me, I had one small crash when Roglic went down [on stage 6 – ed.] but I landed on top of some guys so I didn’t even touch the ground and was quite lucky there.
“And the team is riding well, keeping me out of trouble and now we have two more flat days before we go into the mountains.
“So there’s still a long way before Verona and I’m looking forward to seeing how I’m going there. Because it’s hard to say, with all the climbs coming so late in the race, if everybody will show the same level in the mountains as they did in this time trial.”