Bauke Mollema gave an impressive early season effort in the stage three time trial at the Vuelta a San Juan, finishing in second place with a time of 14:06 for the 11.9-kilometer course.
Mollema was three seconds off the winning time set by Ramunas Navardauskas (Bahrain Merida), and four seconds ahead of teammate Matthias Brändle, giving the pinstriped team two of the top three spots and putting them in ideal position ahead of the queen stage Friday.
With only one climbing stage in the seven-day race, the time trial was crucial for the overall classification, and Mollema will go into stage five with a handy advantage over the other climbers.
"I am a little bit tired after that effort, but that's normal," Mollema smiled. "I am satisfied with the result, and I felt good today, but also in the last weeks already, and this was confirmation. It was a special time trial on the road bike, only 12kms up and back and just two corners, so not technical. It was just about power. It was a good result; also for the GC since I gained time on all the climbers and GC favorites and that's good for the uphill finish on Friday.
"In December I did some specific work to have a really good position on the Madone because I knew I was coming here, and then in the last few days, we were fine-tuning it a little bit. I think in a TT like this aerodynamics are very important. The power was good, and I can be happy."
Although Brändle fell short of his goal of winning the stage three race against the clock and giving Trek-Segafredo its first win of the season, the former hour-record holder finished with a strong third place, certifying his condition is where he wants it.
"I have a little bit mixed feelings because I really wanted to have the win today, but it didn't happen; other guys were stronger than me," said Matthias. "But I am happy with my ride, happy with my condition – I'm on a good level already and looking forward to the next races. Maybe it is good to not be in super, super shape here because the big goals are still ahead. In three weeks in Andalucía, I will have another chance to win a TT. Now we are in good shape for the next stages with Bauke to win it."
Neo-pro Greg Daniel also showed good early season form, finishing in 15th place (+37") and helping give the team the lead in the team classification. The young climber will be a definite asset for the summit finish where the team will rally around Mollema and hope to grab the overall win.