Away from his home in Adelaide, Pawke Mollema (37) is preparing for his first tour Down Under. The experienced Groningen native is looking great in Australia, but in his old age he still has to prove himself.
After years of working as a racer and stage hijacker, a new role emerges as a distinguished servant.
Pawke Mulema has seen almost the entire world during his career, but he has rarely encountered surroundings as beautiful as those of Adelaide in Australia. “I've already seen the first kangaroo pass by,” said an excited voice from the other side of the world. “This is really something different. And in the middle of summer too. Up to 35 degrees today. Really warm on the bike. It looks like it's going to be a few degrees less warm next week, but it's still a big change from cold Europe.”
He loves it in Adelaide. “I think it's a city of a million people, but it's very compact. You can leave the city in ten minutes by bike and some traffic lights. Then it gets very quiet. The first day we biked along the beach and the next days we went into the hills. Lovely climbs there and lots of “Forests. I also walked to the shopping street. There is a good atmosphere, everyone is relaxed. This suits me well.”
A bird attacked him
How different things had been during his only other Australian adventure, a year and a half ago at the World Cup in Wollongong. Molema had little success and was attacked twice by a bird. “It was really in a different part of Australia,” the Lidl-Trek driver recalls. “The weather wasn't as nice then as it is now. When I look around here, I think I wish I had gone to the Tour Down Under sooner. We still have to start, but I already think it's a beautiful trip.”
Molema is audibly relieved. Not only has he had a good winter on the bike, but the two-time Tour de France stage winner is also impressing his followers these days when it comes to running. On Instagram this week, Mollema shared a screenshot showing he had covered 11.10km at a rate of 3.34 minutes per kilometre. That is, the average speed is not less than 16.82 kilometers per hour.
“I enjoy doing it,” Mollema says. “It became more and more fanatical and faster. I used to run a lot, do 4-mile races and so on, but in the 20 years that followed, I almost did nothing anymore. I tried it again in the meantime, but then I I have had injuries. My feet and Achilles tendon are bothering me. Since I got special running shoes, things have improved. I have a talent for running and I also have the ability to do so. The plan is to run another marathon. Maybe one half to start next winter. I also ran a 16km in Ameland a few Months.”
But for now it's still cycling that matters. Last year, Mollema had a very mediocre season, but now his legs seem to have been reborn, the veteran has a new coach offering refreshments and he is looking forward to a new year of cycling.
A year older
“The feeling is very good, but I have a hard time appreciating where I am now. I'm another year older. If I had this feeling ten years ago, I would have been sure I would be in the top 10, but I really don't know that now. Competitors, especially young people “They are all riding so fast these days. There is no easy game anymore. Everyone will be fully prepared.”
It may be up or down for Molema. At Lidl-Trek they want to participate with the big teams this season. For this purpose, two new leaders were brought in: Tao Geoghegan Hart and Jonathan Milan. After Mollema's years as a classification rider and stage-snapper, sporting director Steffen de Jong sees a new role as his super-assistant, but that's not a given. It is up to the Groningen player, who is still on a three-year contract, to prove how much he can continue to provide value to the team.
“It doesn't really depend on the Tour Down Under, but I want to prove it later in Paris-Nice and the Walloon Classics,” he said forcefully. “My goal is to get into the Tour roster again. I have to get to a very high level. I have to show that I can do this role well. I no longer have any illusions that I can still take my chances in the most important matches. I will just have to Support these guys. I'm looking forward to it too. The classics and stage races like Paris-Nice and Switzerland are still very cool races.
In the meantime, he continues to be amused and surprised, as happened on Thursday, when he suddenly saw a man wearing a FC Groningen jersey in the crowd at the team's parade in Adelaide. “Of course I noticed it right away,” Mollema says with a laugh. “I thought: Hey, this is special. When we got off stage I had a conversation with him. This guy had immigrated to Australia 14 years ago and lives in downtown Adelaide. He's originally from Edward. We had our picture taken together. So it wouldn't be because of the support here ”
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