CyclingPub Interview: Bauke Mollema about Giro d'Italia and rider safety
Dec 12 2016 06:36 pm CET

CyclingPub Interview: Bauke Mollema about Giro d'Italia and rider safety
CyclingPub Interview: Bauke Mollema about Giro d'Italia and rider safety


Bauke Mollema of Trek-Segafredo spoke to CyclingPub during his team's training camp in Spain. The Dutchman discusses the past season including his successful Tour de France, and the future with plans for the Giro d'Italia.

We meet a very cheerful and relaxed Mollema in the lobby of a hotel at the Costa Blanca in Spain, where his team has had the habit to spend some time in winter for the last few years. Apart from some staff members and a few more journalists, it's quiet in the lobby. We start with the most basic of questions:

How are you, how are you feeling?
Good. I've been busy again for about a month and training well. Spending a few days with the team now, it's nice to see everybody again and train together. Things are going according to schedule, I think.

How was the winter break for you? It wasn't a very long break, was it?
Well, it was similar to other years. I rode in Japan, but after such a long season I had different expectations going there. Then I was on holiday for about ten days so adding it together I had about four weeks of rest, just like in previous years, and then started training again in early November.
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Bauke Mollema, Trek-Segafredo Training Camp (Spain, 2016)
Photos by Mary Cárdenas /

So you're all fresh ahead of the season?
Yes, all fresh. In the off-season I prefer to do nothing at all so when the season starts again I do really feel motivated to get on my bike. Of course you can continue to cycle twice a week, which some years ago I usually did, but you don't gain much from that and it shouldn't become something tedious. It's nice to make some time for other things, friends and family.

What kind of things do you most like to do during the off-season?
I like to spend some more time with the kids, go to the pool with them more often. Go to the Netherlands to see friends and eat out, that's nice.

What is your feeling when you look back on the past season?
A good feeling in general. Especially physically it was a good season in which I developed well. Of course the level I reached in the Tour and a lot of top-ten spots throughout the year. On the other hand, in the sense of results, it was a bit disappointing. There were good reasons at times but I do think that physically I had a good season. The results were a bit less than I had hoped for but I'm happy with the progress I have made.

"The Tour was one big highlight until the last two days"

And your highlight? San Sebastian or the success you did manage to achieve in the Tour?
That's difficult to say. San Sebastian was the highlight because it was a nice big victory for me. And the Tour one big highlight until the last two days. Those days on the Mont Ventoux and the time trial the day after were probably my best days in the Tour. That gives a lot of satisfaction when I look back on it.

In the previous years you finished in the top ten three times in a row. This year you ended up in 11th place but would you still rank this as your best Tour de France so far?
Yes, I do think so.

The Mont Ventoux stage was of course much debated. How do you look back on that now that some months have passed? At first you seemed okay with the decisions that were made by the judges but once Nairo Quintana also received a time advantage, you weren't quite as positive.
Yes, that was quite special. Of course I went to the finish at top speed and nobody benefits from a situation like that. I wouldn't even want to benefit from it. But now the opposite happened. In the last kilometer, even after that fall, I probably went up faster than the guys that hadn't crashed. So you do feel that you were put at a disadvantage when it turned out that those others benefited, especially Quintana who was gifted ten seconds even after hanging onto a motorbike. That was a special situation.

You think the jury should have done more with the Quintana motorbike situation?
That wasn't up to me I think. Everybody saw it, the people of the ASO and the UCI as well I assume, and apparently they felt that it was allowed at that moment. That's up to them. As for the crash, it was a shame, for cycling as well, that something like that happened again as it wasn't the first time in the last few years that there was an incident involving a motorbike. For myself it was bad because I could have won another ten or twenty seconds. Maybe in the end it wouldn't have mattered that much but at that moment it was frustrating.

"I suffered from my knee a lot because of that little crash on the Mont Ventoux"

Could you put it behind you quite easily in the following days or was it still on your mind?
It wasn't really on my mind. I did suffer from my knee a lot because of that little crash on the Mont Ventoux. There was no wound but it was inflamed as I had fallen right onto the kneecap. I kept that to myself at the time as I obviously didn't want my rivals to know, but I had a lot of pain in that week, so that cost a lot of energy in the following week, which was a shame.

You managed to mask it well then.
Yes, though it wasn't always easy. In the last days I even rode with those strips around my knee. But then I had already fallen on the day before so it didn't matter so much anymore. Maybe people thought it was because of that last crash.

San Sebastian was your first win in a classic. Does this inspire you to try again?
For sure. I don't know whether classics will become a main target for me though, probably not. But a big win definitely inspires. Especially considering the level I reached in the Tour with San Sebastian right after. That showed me that I wasn't completely exhausted after the Tour despite losing spots at the end. I left the Tour very well. When you are completely spent or tired, you don't win in San Sebastian. So I was happy with that. I always like to ride a few classics throughout the year, such as the Wallon classics, Lombardia and San Sebastian, so I will continue to do so in the coming year.

So maybe not as a key target, but is there one race you do particularly dream of winning?
San Sebastian was actually always one of my favorite races. I always did well there in the last years. I really like Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia as well. The Amstel Gold Race I don't think is hard enough for me. But I do think that classifications in Grand Tours will continue to be my main target in the next years. I think I can combine it well, it goes well together. Climbing and riding for classifications is, in the end, what I like the most.

"In the Giro I will go for the classification"

Would you consider making a different Grand Tour your main target at some point in the next years?
The chance is very big that I will ride the Giro this year.

For the classification or in preparation for the Tour?
Definitely for the classification. I will probably do the Tour as well, with [Alberto] Contador, but in the Giro I will go for the classification.

What do you expect from the collaboration with Contador?
If I ride the Giro, Contador will be the leader in the Tour. He will go for the victory and not for a top-five spot or the podium. So I will try to help him there as much as I can.

I was going to ask you about where you think you could make a difference in the Tour but instead I'll ask: Where can you make a difference in the Giro?
I have seen the route of course. I think that the time trials are good for me, compared to how they suit many Giro riders and other climbers, the long time trial and then the other one on the last day. The time trial in the Tour de France gave me a lot of confidence in that sense.

The Giro is a very difficult race, physically. Not just the route but a lot of uphill finishes as well. It's really a back-breaking race. I rode the Giro once before and maybe it is because it was my first Grand Tour but it was definitely the one where I suffered the most, because of all the movements between locations, the bad weather we had and the heavy route.

I think the Giro is a race for fighters, for people that want to keep going and don't collapse too fast. I think it suits me well as I'm a fighter who always goes for it. That's why the Giro suits me. I don't know the roads very well, which may be a disadvantage. I only rode it once after all. But maybe I can explore some of the stages and we fortunately have a lot of Italians on the team such as some riders, Basso and Italian team managers. So I think it'll be alright.

Did you make the decision to ride the Giro before or after the route was announced?
Actually, I had already considered it but when Contador joined the team it was soon clear that he was signed for the Tour and wouldn't do the Giro as well. The team also wants to compete in the Giro. With Segafredo, we have an Italian sponsor of course, which played a role as well. And I reckoned that it would be a chance for me to go for the classification in at least one Grand Tour next year. If you do the Tour it's always uncertain how you do in the Vuelta. But for my own development I think it's good to ride for your own classification in at least one Grand Tour each year.

What is your view on the team's other new signings?
Very positive. I think we are making big steps as a team with climbers such as Contador, [Jarlinson] Pantano, [Andre] Cardoso and a few more young climbers such as [Michael] Gogl and the Americans. And then [John] Degenkolb and a few more good riders, so I'm happy with the reinforcements.

You've been with Trek for two years now. Have you learned things here that you reckon you wouldn't have been able to learn at a Dutch team like (at the time) Belkin?
Of course both are professional teams. Here you do notice that it's much more international. There a lot of very experienced riders such as Cancellara in the previous seasons, [Fränk] Schleck, [Ryder] Hesjedal and now Contador. Those are riders you have looked up to and are able to learn from. At this team it's very clear that the team and the sponsors want to go for the win. I like that mentality. Not being satisfied with a top-ten spot but really trying to go for victories. Yesterday we had a meeting about next year which will be even more important for the team. Especially with all the new signings we got I reckon that we are much more competitive as a team. It's nice to be a part of that.

So Trek really wants to be at the top.
Exactly. Luca [Guercilena] is clear about that to the media, that the WorldTour ranking for teams will become very important, even trying to win it. It's going to be a challenge but it will be nice.

"A Dutchman on the podium? It's a matter of time"

You already mentioned the mentality in the Netherlands. Do you think however that there may have been positive changes to that mentality in the last few years, in Grand Tours? Especially after the last two years in which [Tom] Dumoulin, [Steven] Kruijswijk and you were all close to big results?
I do think that, especially looking at these riders with Steven and Dumoulin in particular, we have a lot of qualities and we don't have to be scared of others or feel that we're less than them. It is of course a long time since a Dutchman finished on the podium in a Grand Tour but we were very close three times now in the last four Grand Tours so I think it's a matter of time until it does happen.

Do you think that there is some sort of sportive rivalry between the Dutch riders to be the first to finish on the podium after such a long time?
Not really. We all have our own schedules, our own races to ride. I'd be happy for the others as well in the races they ride. But if I take part as well, I will of course try to beat them!

Your plans for the next season: We already discussed the Giro and the Tour. What will the spring season look like?
The way it looks now I will start in Argentina, which will be different from other years. It's not entirely certain yet but it does look that way. Then the Tirreno just like in previous years. It has suited me well in the last two years. I finished second and then ninth last year but that was after that mountain stage had been cancelled, which was a shame. So I will compete for the classification again there and we'll still have to discuss what to do ahead of the Giro. It'll probably be a bit different this year. I don't think I'll ride the Amstel Gold Race or the Fleche Wallonne. Maybe just Liege-Bastogne-Liege but we'll have to see as there also training camps at high altitude ahead of the Giro.

Considering the current debate on whether to reduce the amount of riders in important races, what is your view on that possible change?
I would support it. I don't think the teams are as positive. It is much too late though. It is so typical of cycling that this is a topic of debate in December when all teams had already prepared by signing riders. That's typical of this sport. That's a shame. But I have mentioned before that it as far as I'm concerned it should go down. I think it would be good for safety to have fewer riders, less stress, less riders wanting to be at the front. Hopefully there will be less crashes as a result. So I'm definitely in favor.

Next to that decision, is there something else you reckon should absolutely happen first in order to improve safety?
I'm not a big fan of earphones either. For me it would be fine if that was removed too. I think they cause a lot of stress for riders. I've been riding with earphones for years now and you know that whatever I'm being told is probably being said to riders of other teams as well. It's often about the parcours: There will be a narrow stretch, a cobbled section or a climb starts in five kilometers... I think that when the entire peloton hears this at the same time, it causes stress. Everybody thinks 'I have to get to the front to save energy' or because they're scared to get told off by their team managers if they're too much at the back. So I'd like to see those earphones removed but I don't reckon the teams and probably most riders would agree.

I think it's nonsense to say that it's good for safety. I don't see when this would be the case. Maybe once or twice a year an ambulance will come your way and then it's useful to know 30 seconds in advance. But this can also be achieved when a few motorbikes drop back, maybe even neutralize the course a moment. That's what I think about it.

By Jonathan Roorda
Photo of Bauke Mollema by Mary Cárdenas /



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