A general classification winner in January at the Vuelta a San Juan, Bauke Mollema is in contention for the Tour of Gaungxi title in late October. Between the opening and ending races of his season, the Trek-Segafredo rider won a stage of the Tour de France, finished third at Clásica Ciclista San Sebastián, and was seventh overall at the Giro d'Italia.
With two stages to come in southern China at the inaugrual edition of the Tour of Gaungxi, Mollema is just four seconds in arrears to Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal). Two GC wins in the one season would be unprecedented for the 30-year-old, who has already enjoyed one of his best seasons to date.
"I think it was really consistent from January where I already won in Argentina until now. I hope to go home and finish the season with a good result here in China," Mollema explained to Cyclingnews.
"Of course, the Giro was ok, the Tour was really nice to win a stage - my first in the Tour - so that was a great win and my most beautiful win of the year, my best day on the bike. Also at San Sebastián I was on the podium and did some good top-ten results in the first half of the season at Tirreno, Abu Dhabi, so I think it was really consistent."
With the Tour de France on his racing programme since 2011, Mollema changed tack in 2017 and focused on the Giro d'Italia. Although he rode to seventh overall, Mollema explained he will revert back to his 'normal' race calendar in 2018 as the team's main Grand Tour contender, now that Alberto Contador has retired after one season with the team.
With a 35km team time trial, a double ascent of the Mur de Bretagne, 15 sectors and 22km of cobbles, and the Brittany landscape to all contend with in the first week of the Tour before the race hits the Alps then Pyrenees, Mollema sees a parcours suited to his strengths despite the challenges.
"The first week will be nervous like always. I have seen the course and it looks like a nice course to me. Pretty hard," he said.
"I don't know all the climbs yet but for sure I will go to France to check some of the stages but it looks like three hard stages in the Alps and then three in the Pyrenees, a hard TT, a team time trial, cobbles…lots of interesting stages so think it will be a nice Tour. I think this parcours suits me pretty well- like most of the climbers and GC riders."
Despite the Tour of Guangxi being Mollema's first stage race since the Tour, he explained to Cyclingnews that "I have been training pretty well" and "the legs are feeling quite good". Mollema's assessment was confirmed on the stage four finish and, having analysed the climbs of stage five, a late skirmish to move into the leader's red jersey on the longest stage of the race could well be on the cards.
And with it, a fitting farewell to 2017 and a building block for his 2018 Tour de France ambitions.
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