Bauke Mollema notched his first win of the year and Belkin's 10th on the fourth stage of the Tour of Norway. The 27-year-old made it two wins in two days for Belkin having seen Sep Vanmarcke win the sprint for stage 3 at the 2.HC race.
With riders rewarded for attacking racing, Mollema had broken free from the peloton and lead the race into the final corner with two riders on his wheel. Mollema accelerated to claim the win and move to within six seconds of race leader Marc De Maar (UnitedHealthcare) while his chasers picked themselves up having crashed at a crucial point.
"Fantastic," said Mollema. "'I'm very happy to win here. The Tour of Norway is a very nice race."
It was on the final corner of the 195km stage that Mollema's two breakaway companions hit the deck and quickly remounted with Jesper Hansen (Tinkoff-Saxo) crossing the line in second place, three seconds later while Lars Petter Nordhaug (Belkin) was third.
"This was planned," Mollema told Cyclingnews at the finish. "It's a pity that I'm not leading but there's one more stage. Looking back, we shouldn't have slowed down before the uphill finish as we watched each other a little bit. But that's cycling."
In the final 60km of the queen stage, the peloton tackled the Kinnshaugen climb twice and it was during the first ascent that Belkin raised the pace to drop the riders with tired legs. On the second time around, Mollema attacked.
"I gave everything I had and I realised that no one was able to follow," said Mollema."I then picked up three escapees. When we reached the top we still had 23km to go. We maintained a good pace and managed to stay clear. I felt very strong and very confident for the sprint. I think that I still would've won if the two others didn't crash."
With one stage left in the race, Mollema is hoping that he can overcome the deficient to his former teammate, De Maar, and claim his first overall victory in the pro ranks despite not pushing his advantage.
"Unfortunately, our tempo dropped in the final 23km. That cost me dearly as I miss out on taking the lead. It won't be easy to catch Marc de Maar. You don't easily drop him.
"Besides that, it remains to be seen how difficult the course is tomorrow."
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