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“I had a flat tire in a bad moment when Tinkoff-Saxo was going full gas on the climb. Thankfully, Fabian was there and he did a great TT to come back for maybe 20k. Popovych came to help, Stijn, Julian."










16.03.2015 @ 19:10 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

It was a soggy, long day in the saddle for the 210-kilometer penultimate stage in Tirreno-Adriatico. The cold, rain pelted all day making riders indistinguishable clad in black leggings, dark rain jackets, long fingered gloves and rain caps pulled low.


It was a wretched day to be on the bike for five hours.


The race culminated on two local finishing circuits in Porto Sant’Elpidio and with Italian roads notorious to turn into ice-like conditions in the wet, Trek Factory Racing’s strategy was simple but vital: get second placed Bauke Mollema over the finish line safe and sound.


And, it almost didn’t happen.


Some 15 kilometers in three men, including Stijn Devolder, formed the day’s principal escape. After nearly 130-kilometers out front in the grim conditions the trio’s lead had shrunk drastically as Tinkoff-Saxo pushed a hard pace up the day’s only climb.


When Alberto Contador attacked on the uphill to create a selection of around 10-15 riders Bauke Mollema was there - all was good - until he punctured. It was at a worst possible moment, but Fabian Cancellara was close behind and offered up his front wheel.


Trek Factory Racing showed the importance of teamwork as they rallied around Mollema and led a furious chase. The peloton split into three groups under Tinkoff-Saxo’s pressure and it would take a strong cohesive team to bring Mollema back to the front.


“Our plan today was to get into the breakaway, either Markel [Irizar], Julian [Arredondo] or myself,” explained Stijn Devolder. “We tried several times before I found myself off the front with two guys, and with only three of us I didn’t believe it would make it.


“When I heard that Bauke flatted and that the group had split in two, then it was a good thing I was there and I could wait and help them to come back. They were around one minute behind me when they asked me to wait.”


Stijn Devolder dropped from the breakaway to assist Fabian Cancellara, Julian Arredondo and Yaroslav Popovych thwart off a potential dangerous situation.


Fabian Cancellara described the crucial moment: “I was in the second group and Bauke was alone up front but at least we had Stijn as a safety net in the front, and then suddenly Bauke punctures! No car there, nobody, so I gave up my wheel.  Then the neutral service came, so I got a wheel at the same time I was changing his wheel.


“When I caught Bauke back he was already pulling.  We had Julian there also but I told him I prefer to pull because I had the experience and it was a crucial moment. Tinkoff-Saxo was in the front, there were three groups, and then Popo came and we had Stijn come back from the front to also help.  At this moment we needed to give 100% for Bauke. 


“As soon as we hit the next group we had to keep going to catch the front one, and I was a bit scared because I had not eaten or drank and when you pull so hard you can lose the sugar quite fast. As soon as we hit the front group I went back to the car and loaded my body up with three gels in a row!”


“And now I have a self-made Cancellara sandwich,”  he smiled, “with ciabatta bread, salami, mayonnaise, half a turkey [laughs] and some cheese...oh, and just a tiny bit of pesto.” 


In the end, Bauke Mollema came across in the same time as winner Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and all ended well for Trek Factory Racing after the panicked situation with some 70-kilometers to go.


Tomorrow Tirreno-Adriatico concludes with a flat 10-kilometer time trial where Fabian Cancellara will try and better his second place in the first day race against the clock and Bauke Mollema will give everything to maintain his second overall. 


“It felt like it was the hardest stage this week with over 200k, always raining and really cold,” added Mollema, also enjoying an artisan-crafted sandwich made by the team’s soigneurs. “I had a flat tire in a bad moment when Tinkoff-Saxo was going full gas on the climb. Thankfully, Fabian was there and he did a great TT to come back for maybe 20k. Popovych came to help, Stijn, Julian…and we had to catch back around a minute. We spent a lot of energy there but the guys did such a great job!”


And as for Stijn Devolder leaving the breakaway? He was more than happy to drop out of the lead and lend a hand to the team:


“There was no reason to panic anymore when I arrived because Fabian [Cancellara], Julian and Popovych were there. I had good legs, but you cannot do anything with three guys in the front against a whole peloton, and it was better to help the team. In the end I could do my job for Bauke and also help in the finale, and I am happy with it.”


Today was a situation that frequently occurs in a race that is not always caught on camera, and is often unknown to most.  It’s moments like these where unselfish teammates shine, moments that show the necessity - and power - of teamwork.



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