There was no pressure in the final time trial at the Giro d'Italia for Bauke Mollema and the team, just one more chance to give a last effort as the three-week Grand Tour came to a close in the city streets of Milan. While Mollema cemented his top ten in the overall, Mads Pedersen, 21, put in a performance defying his years and finished in 12th place.
"The plan for me was still to go full gas to give everything in the TT, and I did," said Mollema. "The feeling was actually quite good, and the power I did was pretty good. It's a pity that I lost communication in the radio, so I didn't have any time differences or technical information. In the end, I missed half a minute to pass Pozzovivo, so it would not have made any difference.
"It's nice to finish in a big city like Milan, but to finish a Grand Tour with a TT is not the most exciting. I think most riders prefer to finish with a normal stage, and as a GC rider, you have to still give everything until the line."
There was no threat to Mollema's seventh place in the overall, and he completed the 29.3-kilometer race against the clock in a time 1 minute and 46 seconds slower than winner Jos van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo). While Mollema raced for pride, and gave another solid performance in the race of truth, the battle for the Giro podium was full-on.
It was a thrilling ending to the three-week race as Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) time trialed his way back into pink, pushing Nairo Quintana (Movistar) to second and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) to third.
Overshadowed by the fight for pink was the contest for stage supremacy, and if you look a little further down in the time trial results, a young Danish lad had quietly put in a performance worthy of a whole heap of praise.
If you have the legs you do well, if not, you don't. I had a good day.
Mads Pedersen, 21, had just completed his first Grand Tour, ending stage 21 one minute and four seconds off the winning pace, good enough for 12th place – a mere two seconds from a cherished top 10 result.
"Hard day; a TT is always full gas," Pedersen said we caught up to him later. "If you have the legs you do well, if not, you don't. I had a good day," he added matter-of-factly.
"I am really happy with the result today, and it shows that I can do a good time trial even when I am tired after three weeks of racing. For sure I learned a lot: so much about the racing and about myself and how my body reacts. I am tired; my body worked a lot to do this Grand Tour."
When we asked Mads what he would give to have two or three seconds off his time and claim 10th place he smiled, "Everything." Then added, "[It was] so close."
The Director's Cut
While there were shining moments for Trek-Segafredo in the three weeks, like today's performance by young Pedersen, a seventh GC with Mollema, and a near-win with Jasper Stuyven in stage six, the team fell short of its biggest goals explained director Kim Andersen.
"We had some high goals, and we didn’t reach them, that's clear," said Andersen, pulling no punches. "For sure we did not have the strongest team, but we were close to winning with Jasper (Stuyven)," he paused, then continued. "But you cannot always give these 'even ifs'; in the end, we didn't win a stage, and we were not on the podium."
"It's how it is; it's not terrible, we were there often with different riders to help Bauke. The last days were very hard for some of the riders on the team. Especially when we went in the breaks to try and win a stage, it was tough for them; the feeling was a little bit down in the last days."
On Mads Pedersen
"I think it was a really good ride from Mads, absolutely," Andersen continued. "Maybe I even could have pushed him a little more to get a top 10. The whole Giro we have seen things from him that look very promising for the future, I am very happy that we took him here. This will for sure bring him a lot."
On Bauke Mollema
"It's the first time in his career that Bauke tried to be at his top level in May. It's a new experiment, and you can never know how it goes, it didn’t go bad, but he was missing a little bit compared to the Tour de France last year. He was not able to do any attacks, but he was always there. In the two chronos, we also saw he was able to defend the place he has, and that is very important for the future. That is nice to see."
The final word
"It's good to be in the top 10 again of a GT, that is something good," summed up Mollema. "I am happy it is over now, and as I said yesterday already, I did not really feel like I had my top form here. The last years have been really consistent for me in the top 10, that is something good, and for sure I will keep going like this for the future."