Simon Spilak out-performs expectations in Paris-Nice
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Monday, March 12, 2012

Simon Spilak out-performs expectations in Paris-Nice

by Kyle Moore at 9:28 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Nice
Rodriguez climbs well, feeling better in Tirreno-Adriatico

Simon SpilakSimon Spilak (Katusha), the Slovenian transfer from Lampre-ISD, was present at the front throughout the week in Paris-Nice, and used an impressive fourth place in the final time trial on the Col d’Eze to secure fourth place overall.

Spilak was vigilant early in the week when crosswinds split the peloton on stage two to Orléans. A group of 20 including Spilak finished two minutes 29 seconds ahead of the peloton, including what would be the entirety of the top ten in the final general classification.

Three days later, on the steep mountaintop finish in Mende, the race blew up on the extreme gradients, but the 25-year-old was present again, finishing in a four-man group containing eventual race winner Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), six seconds behind stage winner Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM).

After again proving his form by securing fourth in the final uphill time trial, Spilak was more than pleased with the result in Nice.

“I am very satisfied with my performance,” he admitted. “I did all I could to obtain a good result, and in the end this fourth place is beyond all expectations. Unfortunately I missed the podium, but I did my best during the whole race. Of course I have to thank my team-mates. They supported me at every stage, so if I fought for the final podium, it’s also thanks to them.”

Meanwhile, Spilak’s team-mate Joaquim Rodriguez is improving, but yet lacks explosiveness as he prepares for a long season in Tirreno-Adriatico.

His Katusha team has performed well in the past week – Vladimir Gusev is also going well in Italy – but Rodriguez is not yet ready to climb with the riders who are on better form.

On yesterday’s lone mountaintop finish in the Italian stage race, the Prati di Tivo, Rodriguez was present for the first part of the climb but was forced to drop away nearing the finish line. He would eventually come across eighth, 37 seconds behind stage winner Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale).

But the Spaniard is pleased to know that, while he isn’t on top fitness yet, he continues to progress nicely.

“I felt much stronger [yesterday] than I did [the day before],” Rodriguez stated. “I think I improved, and in fact, I stayed with the leaders almost until the end. Unfortunately though, I’m not one hundred percent, as it’s obviously the beginning of a very long season.

“So I didn’t feel like attacking on the [Prati di Tivo]. I preferred to keep the pace and try to resist my rivals’ attacks. In the end I had to give up. I have to admit the other riders surprised me, because they kept a really high pace, which is not easy in this part of the season.”

With two days to race, Rodriguez sits seventh overall, one minute behind leader Chris Horner (Radioshack-Nissan). He heads next to the Volta a Catalyuna, a race he won in 2010.


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