Weening 14th in mixed bag day for ORICA-GreenEDGE at Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Sun 26 Apr 2015

Going into today’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege as reigning champions, ORICA-GreenEDGE was motivated to back up with another strong ride in the hunt for a second result.

In a day of mixed fortunes for the Australian outfit, 2014 Giro d’Italia stage winner Pieter Weening put in a strong performance for 14th position, Colombian climber Esteban Chaves made a dangerous move in the second half of the race but defending champion Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey withdrew after a crash with 40km to go.

After an inspirational ride to support Gerrans last year, Weening put in a brave ride to chase back on numerous occasions and still be in contention with two kilometres to the finish.

“Pieter was caught up in the crash with 40km to go so spend a fair bit of energy to get back to the group before the La Redoute,” sport director Matt White said.

“He survived that and the Faucon climb only to get tailed off on Saint-Nicholas. He chased as hard as he could with (Vincenzo) Nibali and they made contact with two kilometres to go, and then got tailed off in the sprint to the line.

“There was always a chance Pieter could have a go himself because we didn’t know how Gerro was going to be in the final, in the end we didn’t get to find out and Pieter had a very credible ride.”

After 30km of racing and a number of attempts, a breakaway of eight riders established at the front of the race.

Matteo Montaguti (AG2R La Mondiale), Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), Otto Vergarde (Topsport), Clement Chevrier (IAM Cycling), Marco Winnaard (Wanty), Anthony Turgis (Cofidis), Cesare Benedetti (Bora Argon) and Rasmus Quaade (Cult) quickly rode to over seven minutes advantage.

But the pace was on early from behind, the peloton working back to a minute with 90km still left to ride. Shortly after, the break began to splinter on Cote de Wanne.

As it drew back together, the head of the race got active as Astana launched a series of attacks. Each attack drew attention from rival teams, climbers Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates covering the moves for ORICA-GreenEDGE.

Chaves got himself into a five-rider move, which later reduced to three, the Colombian joined by Astana Pro Cycling pair Michele Scarponi and Tanel Kangert.

“There was a section of the race that we wanted to be on the offensive and Chaves took care of that for us,” White said.

“It was always dangerous that a group got together between the La Redoute and Faucons that could have gone to the line so better to have some representing at the front.”

Back in the pack a big crash took down reigning champion Gerrans and teammate Impey. Gerrans got back on a spare bike only to fall again, his tyres slipping from underneath him. The pair withdrew shortly after.

In positive news, they only suffered minor abrasions with no serious injuries.

“There was a big crash as it was heating up in the run into the La Redoute climb and there was around 30 guys that went down,” White explained. “Unfortunately for us Daryl and Gerro went down and then two of our other riders were also held up and had to chase back.”

“It put us behind the eight ball from then on in.”

Chaves’ reign in front came to an end just outside 20km to go, and the race once again increased in intensity.

Numerous groups formed and re-joined before 15riders came together in the final two kilometres to contest for victory.  Launching a long sprint from 500m to go on the uphill drag to the line, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) claimed another Classics victory.