Mollema has only ridden the Giro d’Italia twice in his career, in 2010 and 2017, but was keen to return to the Italian Grand Tour. The Dutchman will join the likes of Vincenzo Nibali, Simon Yates and compatriot Tom Dumoulin in going for the GC at the Italian race.
“That’s my big goal for the first part of the season,” Mollema told Cyclingnews. “I’ve only done it twice; my first Grand Tour and last year, where I finished seventh. So far, the Giro has gone pretty well and I’m looking forward to going back. Now, I’m even more motivated to do it. I even asked the team to go to the Giro myself. The team was not expecting that I would want to go, but I asked them. I’m really looking forward to going back to it.
“The course suits me well. There are three TTs but they are all pretty hard with climbs and the first and last ones are quite short also and the long one has a steep climb in the middle. It’s not really a TT for the flat specialists, it’s for the climbers who can do a good TT.”
Mollema will be hoping for some better luck at the Grand Tours than he did in 2018. He rode the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana this year but failed to secure a major victory.
“I didn’t feel like I had a great season last year. In general, I think that my condition was pretty good. I just missed a win in a really big race, like a Grand Tour or a Classic,” Mollema said. “When you look at the Grand Tours, the Tour didn’t go really well. That was my big goal last year and once I crashed on the cobbles, I didn’t have a chance on GC anymore. That was disappointing.
“After that, it was the Vuelta and it was nice to ride for stage wins there, be in the breakaway and ride aggressively. I was close to a stage win but I was second twice, so hopefully next year I can win a stage in a Grand Tour again.”
Mollema will be the sole general classification leader for the team at the Giro d’Italia but he will defer to Porte when it comes to the Tour. With one Grand Tour already in his legs, Mollema is hoping to get the opportunity to fight for stages while also looking to support Porte in his ambitions.
“The Tour is always one of my goals. I always love to do the Tour and we’ll see how it works out with the GC goal. I think that Richie will be the guy for GC in the Tour and I just have to be ready and be at my best shape,” Mollema explained.
“That is fine for me, I like to be there in the Tour. It’s always been my dream race and I’ve done well in the last years, not only in GC but also trying to win a stage. We’ll see how that works out and if there will be opportunities for that.“
Sharing leadership with Porte
With Mollema heading towards the Giro d’Italia, he and Porte are unlikely to cross paths too often during the first part of the season. Porte is due to start his year at the Tour Down Under, while Mollema has the Mallorca Challenge and Etoile de Besseges on his programme in February.
The pair is due to race together at the UAE Tour at the end of February, but then are unlikely to meet again until the Tour. Mollema is happy to have Porte on-board to share the GC load and believes the team has a much stronger core.
“It’s nice to have him in the team. I’m looking forward to racing with him,” Mollema told Cyclingnews.
“For the team, it is important to have more riders that can do a good GC in a Grand Tour and other races. Richie is maybe one of the best riders in the world in one-week races, in Down Under he always does well, and at Paris-Nice and Tour de Suisse last year. It’s nice working with him. I knew him pretty well even before he came to the team. We always spoke to each other in races, and at the Vuelta, we spoke about next year a little bit.
"We have a much stronger team next year and some young guys who are really good already in training camps. Our Italian rider [Giulio] Ciccone is there, and I think that he can do really well too."