Untimely Puncture Thwarts Pieter Weening's Giro d'Italia Stage Four Ambitions

Tue 7 May 2013

A particularly untimely puncture thwarted Pieter Weening’s hopes of animating the Giro d’Italia stage four finale. Weening, who finished in the top ten on stage three, was the team’s best hope for a result in Serra San Bruno. He ultimately managed 37th place, 10” behind the lead group of 36 from which stage winner Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) emerged.

“Pieter had a front wheel blow out at a really bad moment,” explained Sport Director Neil Stephens. “It would have been hard for him to go off the front today, but with the mechanical, it made it nearly impossible.”

“The boys did a good job to bring me back to the bunch after the flat tire, but I was on the limit from that moment until the finish,” explained Weening. “I still finished in the first group, I think [ed: Weening finished 10” down on the front group], so it’s quite okay in the end.”

Morning showers gave way to mostly blue skies by the time the peloton set off in Policastro for their 246 kilometre day. As they wound their way over undulating costal roads, a five man breakaway slipped away. They were joined by two additional riders before a reshuffle at the front saw two riders fall away from the move and two more find their way up the road. The seven rider move established an early advantage of seven minutes during the first half of the race.

“We opted not to be involved in the early action today,” noted Stephens. “We’ve selected different days for different things, and today was another day where we were happy to sit back until the finish. It ended up being a wise decision because there was a lot of interest not only in the stage but also in the general classification.”

“We have a few riders getting ready for tomorrow’s stage,” Stephens continued. “We didn’t want to make them work too hard today, although they ended up having to work awfully hard just to get to the finish in the end. The length of the stage combined with the climbs and the wet weather during the last hour made it a hard day for everybody.”

Katusha successfully took control of the pace, keeping the escape group manageable distance. The break splintered several times between kilometres 150-200, with the lone survivor swallowed up on the category three Vibo Valentina. Weening enjoyed strong support from his teammates over the first of the two categorised climbs.  

“It was another solid finish today,” said Stephens. “Between the weather and the two rated climbs, things became really difficult.”

Patrick Gretsch (Argos-Shimano) was the first to counter the catch of the early break. Several other riders demonstrated an interest in an animated finale as repeated attacks began to reduce the size of the bunch. When the peloton hit the Croce Ferrata final climb, five riders had a slim advantage over the Katusha-led field.

Weening punctured on the lower slopes of the last major difficulty. Twenty kilometres from the finish, the television cameras captured Weening on the side of the road with Leigh Howard for company.

“The boys really rallied around him,” said Stephens. “I was behind one of the back groups and couldn’t provide any assistance. Leigh gave him a wheel, and Jens Mouris and Christian Meier stopped to wait for him. Unfortunately, the work Pieter did to get back up to the group took a lot out of him.”

Thanks to the swift and efficient work of his teammates, Weening rejoined the peloton within three kilometres of his puncture. By that point, rain was falling in earnest and Sylvain Georges (Ag2r La Mondiale) had a 40” advantage over the field.

Fifteen kilometres from the finish, Team Sky took to the head of affairs and paced the peloton up the mountain. The attacks began again over the top of the climb with Danilo Di Luca (Vini Fantini) and Robinson Chalapud (Colombia) combining forces up the road. The duo caught and then passed Georges, only to be overtaken by the field 300 metres from the finish.

Battaglin won the bunch kick ahead of Fabio Felline (Androni Giocattoli) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), giving Italy a 1-2-3 finish. Weening led home a group of 10 riders, 10” behind the lead group.

“Tomorrow could be a good day for us,” said Stephens. “Coming into the finish there are a few small climbs to soften the bunch ahead of the sprint. It’s the sort of day that suits us well.”