Pieter Weening Climbs into Pais Vasco Top Ten Overall

Thu 4 Apr 2013

The third stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco traded hills for mountains. After taking back to back stage victories to open the Basque Tour, ORICA-GreenEDGE turned its attention to Pieter Weening’s overall ambitions on the stage three summit finish. Stage win objectives gave way to protecting both Weening and Simon Clarke until the base of the steep ascent to Trapagaran.

“We were looking after Pieter and Clarkey [Simon Clarke] today,” said Sport Director Neil Stephens. “We had really wanted to try to get in an early move to have someone up the road if the catch was made on the final climb. Christian [Meier], Wes [Wesley Sulzberger] and Alba [Michael Albasini] all managed to get in several moves at the start. Unfortunately, none were ones the peloton allowed to stay away.”

Finally, on the stage’s first categorised climb, the peloton relented and allowed a five rider move to escape up the road. Polka-dot jersey wearer Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) was once again on the hunt for mountain’s point. He was joined by teammate Omar Fraile, Mikel Landa (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Daniel Navarro (Cofidis). The quintet built up a maximum advantage of five minutes before the race came back together on the penultimate climb.

“After we missed the break, we switched gears,” explained Stephens. “Everyone attended to Simon and Pieter. They all did what they could to ensure that those two were well-placed. Daryl [Impey] and Simon Gerrans did the last bit of work leading to the final climb.

“There were a couple of dangerous areas in the last ten kilometres,” added Stephens. “Gerro was the last rider left with the other two. He basically brought them to the base of the summit with 6.9 kilometres to go before falling back. He did his job well.”

Weening and Clarke were left with an elite front group that lost rider after rider as the road continued up and the kilometres ticked down. In the final kilometre, Clarke fell off the pace set by the race leaders.

“Pieter was able to stay with the main group after Simon fell away,” said Stephens. “He started the race with some GC [general classification] aspirations and showed that he will be a contender for the top-ten. He defended himself really well in that front group.”

Sergio Henao (Team Sky) won the stage by a bike throw ahead of Carlos Bentancur (Ag2r La Mondiale). The Columbian duo finished 5” ahead of Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) who rounded out the stage podium. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was next across the line, 8” behind Henao. Four riders came in at 10”, Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) crossed the line at 16” and then Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) led home Weening’s group of ten riders at 21”. Weening finished in 16th place on the stage and leapfrogged up to 8th overall.

“We’re really happy with the way things went today,” said Stephens. “If Simon Clarke had been on a good day, it would have been even better – but he did what he could and gave it a go. It was a really good ride from Pieter to finish with a select group of climbers. Tomorrow’s stage suits him even more. The tour seems to be shaping up well for him. We’re happy to support him again tomorrow.”