The Trek-Segafredo team come into the 2016 Tour de France with several goals and protected riders but Bauke Mollema will be expected to again fight for the American team’s overall classification hopes in the mountains and all the way to Paris.
Mollema can count on the support of Peter Stetina and veteran Frank Schleck in the mountains, with Schleck an experienced road captain. Also in the team are Markel Irizar, Gregory Rast, Haimar Zubeldia, and talented debutants Jasper Stuyven and Edward Theuns.
This year’s Tour is Fabian Cancellara’s final Grande Boucle but he already seems bored with questions about a long farewell, knowing that every Grand Tour is actually three weeks of tense racing and suffering. Last year Cancellara pulled on the yellow jersey after the second stage but then crashed hard on stage three and had to quit the race.
“It’s not a farewell race, I’m looking for results, so it’s business as usual. It’s nothing special,” Cancellara said with a shrug.
“For Theuns and Stuyven it’s their first Tour and so it’s a big thing. I know what the future is bringing, so I’m relaxed and I’m looking forward to the next few months. I just hope to stay healthy, to enjoy some nice things again but also not to finish on the ground again. I hope that doesn’t happen this year, I want to enjoy the race.
"But it’s going to be hectic. We have no prologue but instead a different opening. But when we see where we are, with the weather, you never know what is coming.”
Mollema ready for a three-week GC fight
Mollema was not as relaxed as Cancellara as the questions flowed, knowing that his race will be far more intense with more pressure, especially from the Dutch media, to improve on his previous top ten results. Mollema is one of the most consistent Tour de France riders in the peloton but is rarely seen on the attack, preferring to play a long game and try to emerge and climb up the classification by limiting any time losses to the podium contenders.
“If you look at all teams here, they all have a GC rider, some even two, so there are 40 or 50 GC guys who are all here to do a top 10 or 20, we’re all fighting for that,” he argued, putting the size of fight for the overall classification into perspective.
“If I finish in the top 10, such as ninth or something, that wouldn’t satisfy me. You have to aim to improve yourself and that’s my goal: to develop as a rider and keep improving. I’m still at age that I can improve. That’s the goal for this year. It’ll be big fight again for sure. This is the hardest race in world, but I like it.
"The time trial suits me well because it’s hard, the first week is about survival, then it’s the mountains. You can’t have a bad day and lose too much time. I’m looking to fight yet again and hope to prove that I’m one of the best GC guys in the world.”
Mollema pulled of the Critérium du Dauphiné with a throat infection but insisted his form is good.
“I think I had a good preparation. At Dauphiné my form was good, I was up there in the first two mountain stages but then I got a throat infection and so pulled out before the last day. I took antibiotics for three days but it didn’t cost me much. I trained again in the Alps and did a lot of long climbs in preparation for the Tour.
"That’s really important because in this year’s Tour there is a lot of long climbing and it all starts before the first rest day. The first week is going to be important too. When we go into the Pyrenees, everyone will already be quite tired.”