Pieter Weening Moves Up to Sixth Overall on Penultimate Pais Vasco Stage

Sat 6 Apr 2013

Pieter Weening celebrated his 32nd birthday with another fantastic ride in appalling conditions at the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco. Finishing fifth on the stage, Weening jumped up two spots on the overall where he now sits in sixth place ahead of the final stage time trial.

“It was another really good day for Pieter,” said Sport Director Neil Stephens. “The boys dedicated themselves to Pieter as much as they could, and he took over at the end.”

The first two hours of racing were fast and aggressive. Things settled down only slight when a ten rider escape group slipped away from the bunch. Ion Izaguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Laurent Didier (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek), Javier Moreno, Rui Costa and José Herrada (all Movistar), Jakob Fuglsang  and Egor Silin (both Astana), Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), Mickaël Chérel (Ag2r La Mondiale), and Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) opened up a 1’35’ advantage by the mid-point of the stage. A chase group that included mountains classification leader Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) and his teammate Omar Fraile took shape.

“The early action was really, really hard,” said Stephens. “The big group that went away included a bunch riders that were well-placed on GC [general classification]. We knew the break wasn’t going to get away too far, but it was a dangerous move. I told the guys to sit back and conserve – maybe with 50-60 kilometres left to race, we’d go on the attack. At that point, they decided to forgo any personal ambitions to stick with Pieter.”

“I did a recon of today’s stage after yesterday’s race,” added Stephens. “There was a couple things we had talked about possibly. We definitely wanted to keep Pieter in a good position for GC, and depending on how things rolled out, I told Michael Albasini and Simon Clarke that they were free to go for an individual result. Sometimes on the last road stage, and especially in weather like this, it’s a good day to take advantage.”

Daryl Impey, who won stage two on Tuesday, woke up feeling less than his best. Christian Meier realised he was having a rough day shortly after the race had gotten underway.

“Daryl told me straightaway that he wasn’t feeling great, and Christian was paying for all the work he had done earlier in the week,” explained Stephens. “Alba [Albasini] got locked out of the bunch pretty quickly, and as you might remember from yesterday, Simon Gerrans withdrew before today’s stage. They left us with Michael Matthews, Clarkey [Clarke] and Wes [Wesley Sulzberger] to look after Pieter.”

With three teammate’s for company, Weening stayed tucked in the bunch as Team Sky gave chase to the ten race leaders and their chasers. Their work succeeded in closing down the advantage to all but Fraile. The young Spaniard forged ahead alone, missing out on glory by six kilometres.

“Clarkey was on a good day, but I pretty much expected that from him,” said Stephens. “He’s a rider that I can always count on to be there for his teammates or to ride for himself. The one that surprised me in a really pleasant way was Wes. Clarkey had an easy day yesterday in preparation for today. Wes did not. He did a lot of work yesterday. He did a lot of work all week. Then, he came out today and did an exceptional job again.”

When the overall contenders upped the speed in the build up to the final climb, Weening was left to fend for himself. He proved more than worthy. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) attacked on the upper slopes of the Alto de Olaberria and dragged a small group clear. Weening missed the split but made the chase group that reconnected on the descent. Inside the final kilometre, Weening was in the race lead amongst good company. Richie Porte and Sergio Henao (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), John Gadret (Ag2r La Mondiale), Simon Spilak (Katusha), Sanchez and Weening looked poised for an eight-up sprint.

Not wanting the race to come down to a sprint, Henao was the first to attack. Porte countered his catch and sprung out of a wet corner to power away from the group. He gained 4’” on the seven riders led home by Sanchez. Weening managed fourth in the group, good for fifth on the stage, and now sits in sixth overall, 35” behind Henao.

“The time trial tomorrow is good for Pieter,” said Stephens. “In saying that, I think it would difficult for him to make up time on the overall. We could also see him drop a position or two down GC. That may happen, but at this point, I think he would need to be on a really bad day to fall out of the top ten.”