A day after losing his Giro d'Italia podium placing at Oropa, it was back to business as normal for Bauke Mollema on one of the fastest days of Grand Tour racing in recent memory. The Trek-Segafredo rider was tenth in Bergamo, crossing the line in the front group of GC favourites. His fifth top-ten result of the 2017 Giro.
While the Dutchman remained in sixth place overall, he proved that stage 14 was a jour sans and wasn't the start of a fall down the overall standings like his disastrous ride to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc at last year's Tour de France. Collapsing from second to tenth.
However, Mollema was one of the most active GC riders in the finale as he tried to get a jump on his rivals and take out the stage win.
"It was perfect today. I think as a team we did a really good job. Before the first climb already with Mads (Pedersen) and Jasper (Stuyven) who brought all the climbers in a good position at the front, and then in the finale with Jesus (Hernandez) and Pete (Stetina)," said Mollema.
"The last climb was steep and narrow and you needed a good position. I was there, and I felt much better than yesterday. It was a really hard day; it took a few hours until the break finally went, but I think we did a really good job today."
The stage was reminiscent of the Italian monument, Il Lombardia, although the searing 52km/h average pace set in the first two hours set it apart from 'the race of the falling leaves'. Trek-Segafredo set Mads Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven to work on the flat roads before Jesus Hernandez and Peter Stetina took over for the hilly finale.
"It was full gas all day, and it took 110kms for the breakaway to go, and when it finally did, teams immediately started pulling. There was never any respite; it became a race of attrition," Stetina said.
"Mads and Jasper put Bauke and I into perfect position into the real big climb, and there was already a real big selection. And then it was just full on to the end. There were a bunch of crashes; Bauke had to pull some cyclocross moves around Quintana at one point, and Jesus and I were there to support him."
The American Stetina was the final man for Mollema in the fast finale and explained of his race efforts so far in 2017, not many have come close to the 199km day.
"Coming into the very final climb, the group was pretty whittled down, and I just started riding in the wind next to the leadout teams to make sure Bauke started the final little kicker with five kilometers to go in the first 10 wheels," said Stetina. "So I made my race finish line the bottom of that climb and made sure he was in good position so he could attack over the top," he added.
"Yeah, we got through a real difficult day; numbers-wise it was one of my biggest race days this year."