Bauke Mollema was one of the few riders willing and able to take the fight to Tour de France race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) on the slopes to Arcalis in stage 9 and the Trek-Segafredo rider, although he lost time that day, is ready for what lies ahead with the stage 12 to Mont Ventoux looming.
Stage 11 to Montpellier is one for the sprinters but then the race climbs Ventoux on Thursday, followed by another testing day 24 hours later with the first individual time trial of the race on Friday. Although those back-to-back stages are unlikely to decide the final outcome of the race, they could provide two pivotal moments. The top 11 riders in the race are currently separated by just over a minute, with Mollema handily placed in sixth, just 44 seconds off yellow and even close to a podium spot.
"The feelings are good and at the moment I'm happy with my legs. Everything is still close but there are still 10 to 15 guys who are close together," he told Cyclingnews.
"I'm really confident with the form that I have so that a good result is possible in the next few weeks."
Although he conceded roughly 20 seconds on the final climb in the Pyrenees, Mollema believes that his confidence was given a boost after he attacked his rivals and gained an initial gap. He was chased by Froome and he paid for his aggression, yet still remains a genuine top-five contender.
"I felt good and there were a lot of attacks in the last five kilometres from Porte and Dan Martin. I was there and just wanted to give it a try. I went but Froome chased everyone back. In the end, I lost 20 seconds to those guys but for my motivation it was good that I could try and do something."
Mollema climbed Ventoux in the race during the 2013 Tour de France when Froome blew everyone away and won in yellow. That day Nairo Quintana finished second at 29 seconds with Mollema losing 1:46 but retaining a second place overall before becoming ill. The Dutch rider has become stronger and more consistent in the last two seasons and has worked hard on his time trial but Ventoux is a climb that could see the GC contenders lose minutes rather than seconds if they have a bad day.
"Ventoux is so hard. For me it's one of the hardest climbs and the hardest climb that we do during the Tour. It's so long and so steep for such a long time and we could see big gaps. Yes, it's going to be hard with the time trial the next day and a difficult combination.
"The time trial is hard, for sure. It's not flat at the start and there's lots of uphill. There's not really flat at all in there and it's not that technical. It's a course for guys with power and I think that suits me well."
With so many riders bunched together at the top of the standings, it's too early to get a sense of how the final top three or five will look in Paris. For that reason Mollema is not getting ahead of himself.
"It's too early to talk about the podium. Ventoux and the time trial will be really important blocks and from there maybe we can talk more about position but I just want to keep my focus and keep my legs. I think I can move up but we'll have to see how far."
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