While the fireworks erupted – midway and again in the finish – in a highly entertaining stage 19 at the Giro d'Italia Friday, Bauke Mollema continued to show resiliency, thwarting off the earlier threat, and then climbing with the general classification leaders in the summit finish to hold his seventh place overall.
"The legs were good, and it was a crazy day again, especially at half-way in the stage when the peloton split up in a descent, and we were behind," explained Mollema. "That was a pity; there was no stress, it was just a relaxed moment in the race, and suddenly someone made a gap in the descent, and the first guys were gone.
"Then we had to pull really hard with LottoNL-Jumbo and Sunweb to close the gap because there were a few GC riders in front. It did not take a toll on me really because in front they were also pulling really hard, and we were always 30 seconds behind. We only had to close 20 seconds on that climb at halfway, and, okay, we had to spend some energy there, but 20 seconds on a 5-6km climb is not too much."
With race leader Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) also caught out, there was plenty of help in bringing back the dangerous split, and it was eventually neutralized on the category-two climb that topped out with 86 kilometers remaining.
Tranquility again spread amongst the GC contenders and a large breakaway – the second escape of the day after the first was caught during the mid-race battle – was granted freedom to ride, while the bunch ballooned with dropped riders catching back on.
Trek-Segafredo, back together after their earlier effort, led Mollema perfectly into the last mountain climb, placing him in the top wheels as the road pitched quickly upward.
On the final climb as the fireworks errupted, Mollema never relented, holding strong to the contenders group, while Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) suffered his first bad day, distanced at the halfway mark and eventually losing the overall lead to Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Once again in the closing kilometers, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), and later Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alepcin) with Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale), attacked to gain a few seconds by the finish as they continue to chip closer to the final podium.
"It was a real power climb: it was steep, sort of a highway, a wide road – I liked it," continued Mollema. "I felt good. Yeah, in the finale I lost a few seconds to some guys, but I am starting to feel good. I think this is just my place for now."
Indeed, Mollema appears to have solidified his hold on seventh overall; he's unable to claw closer to those in front of him but has put enough distance to the ones behind that he can relax and perhaps enjoy the final two days of the centennial Giro.
"I felt good on the last climb, that was nice," repeated Mollema, then added laughing: "I am starting to feel a little better every day, so yeah, maybe we need another week!"