Pieter Weening Animates Pais Vasco Stage Four Finale

Fri 5 Apr 2013

Pieter Weening cemented his place in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco top ten ahead of the penultimate day of racing and final road stage in Basque Country. The Dutchman attacked the peloton on the stage four final climb before falling back to ultimately finish cross the line in eighth on the stage and retain his hold on eighth overall.

“It was a pretty good day apart from the cold and the wet,” said Sport Director Neil Stephens. “As usual, everybody did their part. They safely delivered Pieter to the base of the last climb and let him take over from there.”

It took more than an hour of racing before the day’s break was allowed to take shape. Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Daniele Ratto (Cannondale), Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale) went clear before the day’s first of six categorised climbs.

Shortly after the break went clear, Simon Gerrans withdrew from the race.

“Simon came here with certain objectives and wanting to get a certain number of race days in his legs,” explained Sport Director Neil Stephens. “It’s why he started Catalunya and raced with us here. His withdrawal from the race was planned. Now he rests up before the Ardennes.”

Gerrans did one last bit of work before pulling off his race numbers.

“Simon was to look after Pieter right from the start,” noted Stephens. “His last contribution was to drop back to the car and get some good winter gloves for Pieter. After he handed them off, Simon called it quits.”

Heading into Ermua, leading up to the first category Alto de Ixua, ORICA-GreenEDGE paid particularly close attention to Weening’s placement in the peloton.

“There are a lot of traffic islands and other road furniture here,” said Stephens. “It was crucial that Pieter was looked after at this section. He needed to be well-positioned going into the third to last climb. Apart from their normal duties, this was one of the most important jobs of the day for the team.”

Taaramae and Vorganov fell off pace in the mountains, and Velits, Motaguti and Ratto hit the final 30 kilometres with a 4’50” advantage over the field. Team Sky, working for race leader Sergio Henao, seemed to struggle to keep the break in check. On the penultimate climb, Movistar took over at the front. Their work quickly halved the escape group’s advantage.

On the lower slopes of the final climb, Movistar picked up the pace again. The fast tempo began to thin out the bunch as Ratto was caught. The peloton had Velits and Montaguti within sight when first José Herrado (Movistar) and then Weening attacked.

“Sometimes in cycling, the boys wait for all sorts of instructions before taking action,” said Stephens. “I’d rather see them take some initiative. They can see and feel things in the bunch that I can’t from the car. I really support these types of moves, and Pieter’s move was definitely a good one.”

Weening made his way across to Herrado, and the duo were soon joined by Simon Spilak (Katusha). Spilak was the first to make contact with Montaguti and Velits. Weening was well on his way to closing the gap when Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) countered the earlier moves. Betancur's acceleration sparked a response from Team Sky, and Weening soon found himself in an elite group of seven in pursuit of Spilak. By the time Richie Porte and Henao (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Jean-Christope Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Betancur caught Spilak over the summit, Weening had fallen slightly off the blistering pace set by the race leaders.

“Pieter lost contact in the last 300 metres,” said Stephens. “If could have just hung on for another minute or two, he would have finished with the lead group.”

Instead, Weening crossed the line 16” behind Quintana. Two seconds later, Henao led home the group of six to retain the leader’s jersey by 6” over his fellow country man. Eighth on the stage and eighth overall, Weening is resolved to hold his top ten place until the race finish on Saturday.

“I’ve done a recon of tomorrow’s stage this afternoon,” said Stephens. “I live in this area. I’ve raced in this area. I’ve won in this area. I know the roads well, and I know that tomorrow is going to be a really hard day of racing. We could see a lot of changes on the GC [general classification] still.”

“The time trial on Saturday is no walk in the park, either,” Stephens continued. “It’s hard and it’s technical. It could suit Pieter well. The big hurdle is tomorrow, but Pieter's going well and has no reason to be scared The objective now is to hold his place in the top ten. It will be difficult do, but it’s certainly a realistic goal at this point.”