Tirreno-Adriatico has not gone the way Bauke Mollema or Trek-Segafredo wanted, but in the 210-kilometer stage five that resembled a Classics race, Mollema rebounded with a strong fifth place, showing his usual form once again.
"Phew! Today was a finale of 100 kilometers!" exclaimed Mollema about the grueling race. "The racing started really early, and I was not so good at that point, but like often happens for me, I became better and better when they kept going.
"Yesterday I didn't have the best legs, but the difference with the others wasn't all that big either. But today, obviously, it went way better. I started to feel better once we came into the steep climbs."
The short, sharp climbs and serpentine, narrow roads imitated a tough Classics race, leaving only the hardiest to fight out the final kilometers. A spunky Fabio Felline threw down a few attacks in the last 30 kilometers, helping whittle the peloton and setting up a final select group of 11 riders that arrived at the steep uphill finish to fight out the stage win.
Unsurprisingly, Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe) sprinted to the victory, as Mollema showed grit by finishing in fifth, moving him into the top 10 of the general classification.
"In the last 3km the front group split, but they were so close that I knew we would come back," added Mollema. "I knew Sagan was racing to win the stage, so I took his wheel and let him close the gap.
"I am pretty happy with my result today. It was all about positioning in the last kilometers. I was surprised that I still had a little sprint in the legs, so, yeah, I am satisfied with my performance today.
"After the TTT, the GC became difficult, and then, after yesterday, it was completely over, but I wanted to finish the weekend with a good feeling, and I think I can. Yesterday I was a bit far behind, but today I was there with all the favorites. I feel I am on a good way. I am also happy that I could keep fighting and that I showed once more that I never give up."