Belkin leader moves up to fifth as the Tour de France looms
Despite doubts about the future of the Belkin team, Bauke Mollema looks on track for the Tour de France with another strong performance at the Tour de Suisse.
The Dutchman finished third on the mountain stage to Verbier on Saturday. He moved up from 11th to fifth overall, 1:41 down on leader Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) but is expected to go on the attack during Sunday's final mountain stage to Saas-Fee.
Mollema finished sixth in the 2013 Tour de France after fighting for a place on the podium for much of the race.
In the heat of the racing on the climb to Verbier, Mollema even took to the footpath to make an attack with Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo). Johan Esteban Chaves had already made his move but Mollema and Kreuziger went very close to catching him, finishing just three seconds behind.
"Chaves attacked in the last kilometres," Mollema said. "I reacted but had Roman Kreuziger in my wheel. In the last kilometre, he refused to ride and waited for the sprint. He sprinted ahead for second place but anyway I think Chaves was the strongest."
Mollema's Belkin team set up his strong finale, with Stef Clement, Steven Kruijswijk and Laurens ten Dam doing a lot of work on the climb to Verbier. They are expected to support him yet again at the Tour de France.
"As planned we managed to set the pace on the final climb," Mollema explained. "Steven and Laurens worked hard to control the race. I'm happy with this third place. Tomorrow (Sunday) I have a chance again."
Mollema hopes to climb on to the final Tour de Suisse podium after Sunday's stage. The 156.7km stage includes four climbs, including the final 20km Hors Category climb to the finish at Saas-Fee (1807m).
Mollema is only 45 seconds behind world champion and double Tour de Suisse winner Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida). He gained 15 seconds on the climb to Verbier but Belkin hopes Mollema can gain even more time on the climb to Saas-Fee.
"It will be comparable to today (Saturday), a harder stage with climbs, with a chance to better Bauke's GC and to win the stage," directeur sportif Nico Verhoeven said. "With the Tour de France coming, the men are doing well."
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