Mollema’s solo attack masterclass: ‘You have to be quick to react’
Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) attacked out of the breakaway on stage 14 of the Tour de France, taking victory in Quillan after over 40 km solo. His style is what the Dutch call ‘Mollemalen’ – that is, grinding like Mollema – and Saturday’s stage was exemplary.
“It’s super nice. It’s amazing to win a stage again and I’m super happy,” Mollema said after the finish. “It was a super hard day. It took like 80-90 kilometres until the break finally went and the team did amazing, we didn’t miss any moves in the start of the race. Finally, it was a nice group, a lot of strong guys, but we were not working together so well, a few guys were not really [taking turns].
“I was feeling good and I had the confidence that I could ride alone and keep going for a long time. Once I had one and a half minutes I knew I had a really good chance to make it until the finish line. Normally I can pace myself pretty well. On the steep part of the last climb it was important to go full gas and not lose too much, but I still had more than 50 seconds at the top so I was pretty sure I was going to make it.”
Mollema has a lot of experience in long-range solo attacks. At Trofeo Laigueglia on March 4th earlier this year, Mollema put his diesel engine into action in familiar fashion. He went solo in the closing phase of the hilly Italian classic, holding 18 seconds over the elite chase group at 10 km to go, and he more than doubled his advantage by the finish, beating the Egan Bernal-led chase group by 39 seconds.
Saturday’s stage 14 effort began rather earlier, leaving behind his breakaway companions with a little over 42 km left to race.
“Most of my race wins are with solo rides, you just have to find the right moment to attack,” Mollema said in the press conference. “I felt there was no one on my wheel, so I just attacked and got a gap straight away. I think a lot of guys were not expecting an attack there, and once you have like a three or four second gap it’s pretty hard to close me down. I can keep pushing and I went pretty fast into the corners. You have to be quick to react to close the gap, because otherwise, I knew those guys would look to each other at that moment.”
This is Mollema’s second career Tour de France stage victory, and it’s easy to compare it with his win in 2017. Like this year, the Dutchman was part of a large breakaway on stage 15, which he attacked late in the stage and soloed into Le Puy-en-Velay with 19 seconds to spare.
“It’s really hard to compare victories” Mollema said. “2017 was my first stage win in the Tour so that was maybe even more special, but this one is definitely super nice, especially after a long solo like this. I’m not a rider who’s winning five or ten races every year so every win is special for me, and especially the Tour de France.”