Bauke Mollema of Rabobank finished third on stage of the Vuelta a España to move up to ninth place overall. The Dutchman crossed the finish line in San Lorenzo de el Escorial only nine seconds behind stage winner and new overall leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
“I was hoping for victory,” Mollema said on the Rabosport website. “I started well in front, but unfortunately I couldn't follow Rodriguez at the very steepest part. But in the last hundred-two hundred meters, I was a bit faster and could still pass two men.”
The final kilometer was very hard, the 24-year-old said. “You only come across such steep roads once a year and there were some cobblestone sections. It was really crazy, but this kind of explosive work is good for me.”
His result made him optimistic for Sunday's mountain stage, which he called “the first real mountaintop finish. The Sierra Nevada was not steep enough, there we arrived with thirty men."
Freire abandons with breathing problems
Rabobank will have to without sprinter Oscar Freire for the remainder of the Vuelta, however. The Spaniard came into the race with breathing problems, which had seemed to improve, as he finished third in Friday's sprint. However, the difficulties returned on Saturday and he was forced to abandon, and will miss out on two crucial weeks of racing miles ahead of the world championships.
“On Friday, he finished the stage with breathing problems and fatigue, but this morning it seemed that he had recovered and we all thought that he was going to continue to improve in the race,” Rabobank manager Erik Breukink explained to TVE. “However, this morning [Saturday] on the first ramps of the Puerto de Mijares, his problems returned and he took the decision to pull out.”