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The Trek-Segafredo rider made it into a group of about 24 riders that went clear Thursday but was on the wrong side of a split when Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) attacked on the second of three climbs.
Mollema formed a chase group with Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious), Lucas Hamilton (BikeExchange), and Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) but the quartet was not able to catch the three-man group that had gone up the road.
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It is the second time that Mollema has flirted with victory at the Giro after making it into another break that went all the way on stage 7. He finished second then and had wanted more on his second go but said that team numbers played a factor in deciding the day.
“It was nice to go for a stage win today but, in the end, it was a bit tactical with some teams having two or three riders in that group, and being alone it’s hard it’s not up to me to chase in the valley,” Mollema told VeloNews. “I just waited for the last climb, the hard one. I felt pretty good, I was with the best four climbers, I think. We worked pretty well together, but unfortunately, we were not able to close the gap.
“When those guys were in front, everybody was looking to each other and nobody really wanted to pull and there was no organization anymore. That’s always hard with a breakaway like that.”
The fight for the breakaway on stage 12 was a long and aggressive affair with multiple moves going off the front before being reeled back in. It wasn’t until after 60 kilometers of push and pull that the day’s break finally began to take shape.
Mollema has shown multiple times during this Giro d’Italia that he’s good at sniffing out stage-winning breakaways. With his Trek-Segafredo teammate Juan Pedro López still in the pink jersey after taking it on stage 4, the Dutchman had to pick his breakaway move carefully.
He couldn’t waste his energy going with every attack that got a small gap, and it needed a realistic chance of making it to the finish line ahead of the main pack.
“We were pretty sure it was going to be a breakaway day, but we still had the pink jersey but only when it would be a bigger group with more than 15 guys, more than 20, I was allowed to jump and to follow,” Mollema said.
“That went pretty well, I didn’t spend any energy in the first 50 or 60 kilometers until the intermediate sprint I saw some guys attacking just afterward and I just followed. It was a nice group and we worked pretty well together.”
As he did Thursday, Mollema will have to balance his attempts for a breakaway victory at the Giro d’Italia with the demands of protecting the pink jersey. While stage 12 turned out to be a fairly simple one for the GC riders, it won’t always be like that and Mollema will have to pick his breakaway days carefully.
“For sure, for the moment we are still in pink, but we will see. Tomorrow should be OK, and Saturday is another really hard stage but we will see how the legs are and then we try,” he said.