New Trek Factory Racing signing Bauke Mollema has explained that he had already decided to leave Belkin before the Dutch squad's title sponsor announced that it was pulling out of the sport at the end of the season.
Belkin’s announcement came in June, leaving its riders in limbo for much of the Tour de France. By that point, news of Mollema's imminent transfer to Trek had already leaked, though the move was only confirmed officially on Tuesday.
"In May and June, I myself made the decision to leave," Mollema said, according to Dutch website wielerflits.nl. "That was before the news came out that Belkin would stop at the end of this year. Of course, it seemed like I was abandoning the ship before it sank, but I had already made the choice to leave."
Last week, it was confirmed that the Dutch national lottery, De Lotto, will step in as a replacement sponsor for Belkin and ensure the team's survival for the next two years. While Mollema was riding to 10th overall at the Tour, however, his teammates had no such guarantees about their futures.
"A lot of guys were in limbo about their future and had no security," Mollema said. "I can imagine that me signing somewhere else might not have been well received, but as a team we put our best foot forward and dealt with it professionally."
Mollema battled through the mountains of the Tour in seventh place overall, but he slipped three places in the general classification after a disastrous final time trial in Périgueux, where he lost over nine minutes. Both Mollema and teammate Laurens ten Dam – who lost six minutes and dropped from eighth to ninth overall – rode the stage on new Bianchi time trial bikes, which they were using in competition for the very first time. He denied that problems with material had contributed to his departure from the team.
"I think the time trial bike is a very fast bike and it tested really well in the wind tunnel," Mollema said. "But we just didn't have enough time to train on the new bike. The fact that I didn’t have a time trial bike to train on at home all year wasn't in my favour."
Mollema's next race with Belkin will be the Eneco Tour, but he already has one eye on the 2015 season at Trek Factory Racing, where he will rejuvenate a team whose Grand Tour hopes rested on the Schleck brothers and 37-year-old Haimar Zubeldia this season.
"The Tour is by far the most important race and I want to continue to ride for the classification," he said.
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