It was an emotional victory for Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) at the Clasica San Sebastian, held just one week after a disappointing final few days at the Tour de France. The Dutch rider has come out of the French Grand Tour in good form, however and is looking forward to the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"The last days of the Tour de France were really disappointing for me," Mollema said after crossing the finish line in San Sebastian. "This is a good way to fight back and I think I showed that I have good form and that I can look forward to the Olympics."
Mollema was sitting in second overall at the Tour de France heading into the final stages in the Alps. Although he maintained his high placing after a challenging stage 18 mountain time trial to Megève, he slipped to tenth overall after crashing during stage 19 to Mont Blanc on a slippery descent before the final climb, and he never regained contact.
In San Sebastian on Saturday, Mollema attacked over a new final climb; Murgil Tontorra, located just eight kilometres from the finish, and he soloed to the line.
"Yesterday in training I did the last climb twice and three times the descent, so I knew what was coming," Mollema said. "I was a few places behind when [Joaquim] Rodriguez went, and it was a narrow climb, so it was difficult to pass the other riders. But I felt quite good and knew that I could close the gap in the last few hundred meters of the climb. On the top, we were four and Rodriguez slowed down a little bit, and I think that was the perfect time to go.
"I just wanted to try something, and it was a good moment for an attack, it was still 500 meters flat at the top. I tried and saw I had a gap and then it was just full gas until the finish. I think with two kilometers more or less I knew I had it. I still felt I had some power in the legs, so I was not going to blow up, and when I looked back, I didn't see the second group. I felt I could keep it until the finish – it was a nice feeling, especially in the last few hundred meters."
Mollema crossed the line for a solo victory, while Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) was second in a two-up sprint against Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). It was the Dutchman's first WorldTour classics victory of his career.
"I'm really happy to have this win," Mollema said. "I felt good all day. In the last years, I was always in the top 10 here. I've recovered well from the Tour de France, so I'm really happy with this win.
"It's really nice to win a big classic like this, which is my first WorldTour classic victory. It's a really nice race and I've always wanted to be on the podium at this race and get one of those Basque hats – and now, finally, I have one."
Mollema will now turn his attention to the Olympic Games. He is one of four men on the road team that also includes Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), Wout Poels (Team Sky) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo).