Improvement on display up Col d'Ospedale at Critérium International
Bauke Mollema's overall result at Critérium International may have seen the Dutchman finish six seconds shy of the podium but his third-place atop the 14km Col d'Ospedale on Stage 3 has provided him with the confidence he needs ahead of Amstel Gold and more specifically shown he can handle the longer climbs crucial to performing and leading Team Blanco at the Tour de France.
Mollema crashed out of last year's Tour on Stage 11 to La Toussuire and was then forced to take significant time off the bike ahead of the Vuelta a España but this year he will again focus on taking on a leadership role in the French grand tour.
Robert Gesink and Mollema will co-captain Blanco at the three week race but the former will have the fatigue of the Giro d'Italia in his legs.
It may be that Mollema becomes Blanco's number-one if Gesink tires in the final week but he'll need to get through the challenging first three days around Corsica, where the Critérium International was held, before coming to any conclusions on his expected results.
"It is good to have been here [Corsica] once already," he told cyclingonline.nl. "It is a difficult island. The road is rarely straight and flat. The first week is always very nervous, but here will it will be worse. The team leaders will have extensively explored the stages before the start."
Aiming at the Ardennes and more specifically Amstel Gold, Mollema says his results this year - sixth-overall at Tour Méditerranéen, third in Ruta Del Sol, second at Vuelta a Murcia and second-place on the tough Stage 5 at Tirreno-Adriatico - have given him a renewed sense of confidence ahead of the tough week of one-day classics and of course, the Tour.
"This year I have been performing very well on shorter climbs and especially in the short explosive work. Now I also know that I can handle a climb of fourteen kilometers. It gives me confidence ahead of the Tour de France."
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