Following Robert Gesink's performances at the Tour of Oman, the second young and skinny Dutch climber in line for the throne at Rabobank, Bauke Mollema, is expected to shine in Paris-Nice as the "race to the sun" will hit the hills in its second part.
"I've had a good winter with two months of training in Spain, in the region of Alicante," Mollema told Cyclingnews on the start line of stage four in Crèches-sur-Saône. "I've done a lot of climbing and I hope it'll pay off here at Paris-Nice and later at the Volta a Catalunya. My condition is good and I keep improving day by day. I also have Liège-Bastogne-Liège in mind. After that, it'll be all for the Tour de France."
The 24-year-old from Groningen, who was still a university student two years ago, rode his first Grand Tour last year at the Giro d'Italia and finished 12th overall. His 2010 was shortened by an injury following his stage win and third place overall at the Tour of Poland. But these results were enough to convince the management to line him up at the Tour de France alongside Gesink, who carries the responsibilities of being the next flying Dutchman in the mountains.
"Robert had a great Tour of Oman," Mollema said. "I wasn't there with him but I knew he was going to be good in the mountains. It was more of a nice surprise to see him beat Cancellara and Boasson Hagen in the time trial. I've done a lot of races with him but no Grand Tour yet. The Tour de France will be our first one together. I'll do it for the first time, completely at his service. He's the leader of our team. He can be on the podium in Paris."
At Paris-Nice, Mollema shares the captaincy of Rabobank with Luis Leon Sanchez, who won the race two years ago and finished second to Alberto Contador last year. "It's great to have him in the team now," the Dutchman noted. "He's our leader for this race. His presence makes the other riders of Rabobank stronger."
Rabobank is the most successful team so far this year with twelve victories in two months of racing.