Rabobank's Bauke Mollema was a contented rider in Verona yesterday afternoon after finishing this year's Giro in 12th overall, a fantastic result for his team given its youth and lack of a clear leader without defending champion Denis Menchov.
Three weeks ago in his home country of the Netherlands, Mollema was full of hope and enthusiasm but the winner of the 2007 Tour de l'Avenir didn't know what to expect from his first Grand Tour. His Rabobank team didn't start with a real captain a year after winning the event with Menchov.
"Maybe one of us will make the top 20," Mollema had told Cyclingnews in the theatre Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam the day before the opening time trial. Two of them made it as first-year pro Steven Kruijswijk finished 18th and also rode a very promising first Grand Tour. They came third and fourth respectively in the best young rider competition behind Richie Porte and Robert Kiserlovski.
"I'm very satisfied", said Mollema inside the arena of Verona where the Giro concluded amid magnificent fanfare. "In every mountain I was in the top 10 or top 15. I feel I'm going to be even better next year."
Mollema has the physique of a pure climber with a huge margin for improvement. Last year he was sidelined by the Pfeiffer disease and two years ago he was still a student, living amongst his peers at university although he was already a pro cyclist with Rabobank.
"My ultimate goal is to win the Tour de France," he explained. He'll ride the Tour de Suisse in June and take a rest before gearing up for the end of the season. "I hope to perform in Italy again at the Giro di Lombardia," he said.
Several years after Rabobank's great hope for the Grand Tours, Michael Rasmussen, was dismissed from the team, the Dutch squad appears to have some home-grown Tour talent, with Mollema and Kruijswijk two more climbers on the rise soon after Robert Gesink and Lars Boom, who are preparing to lead the team's charge at the Tour de France.