Vacansoleil's Wout Poels climbs with the best in Tirreno-Adriatico
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Vacansoleil's Wout Poels climbs with the best in Tirreno-Adriatico

by Jered Gruber at 5:34 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
23 year old Dutchman ready to take on Classics and Grand Tours

23 year old Wout Poels has shown in a very short time that there is more to Vacansoleil's climbing corps than its two foreign climbers, Riccardo Ricco and Ezequiel Mosquera. Scratch that, make that one.

The Limburger already popped up last year with stage wins at both the Tour de l'Ain and the Tour of Britain, but in only the first month of his racing season in 2011, he has made it clear that he'll be a factor for the rest of the year and beyond.

The young Dutchman was third overall at the Tour of the Mediterranean and third on the crucial Mont Faron stage to start his year. A week later, he finished 15th overall at the Volta ao Algarve, and then roared to 4th overall at the Vuelta Murcia. His result in Murcia was a major indication of his current status, and that was with a significant time loss on the first sprint stage. Thereafter, when the road tilted upward against the likes of Menchov and Contador - he was consistently there.

After his great performance in Murcia, Poels journeyed to Italy for Tirreno-Adriatico and found more success. He finished second on Sunday, only centimeters behind winner Philippe Gilbert, then followed that with 6th on Monday, surrounded by some of the sport's best: Evans, Visconti, Scarponi, Nibali, Basso, Poels, Garzelli, Gesink, Gilbert.

Poels wasn't quite able to stay with his newfound peers in Tirreno-Adriatico's final time trial, but considering this has been his first major emergence to the top level of the sport, that can certainly be chalked up to youth, inexperience, and the eternal plague of the climber - the time trial.

Speaking to Holland's, De Telegraaf, Poels is happy to take his spot amongst the world's best.

"I always had confidence that it was in me, but now it's starting to get out. On the climbs in the Algarve, I could compete with men like Contador and Menchov. Here, on explosive climbs, I was there with riders like Evans, Cunego, and Gilbert. It also gives me confidence for the Classics."

With his successes in the Tour of the Mediterranean, the Volta ao Algarve, the Vuelta a Murcia, and now Tirreno-Adriatico, Poels has shown that he's a factor whenever the road heads skyward. It's a fact not lost on the young talent, and it's a fact that is allowing him to set his sights on those three majestic races that define the cycling year: the Giro, the Tour, and the Vuelta.

"As [the race] becomes harder, I see others weaken. I stay at the same level. I think this is my strength and that makes me well suited for the Grand Tours."

Before the Grand Tours arrive, Poels will get a shot at the hilly Classics. This will be Poels's third go around in the Ardennes, so it certainly won't be new to him, but the confidence that he has built throughout the early goings in the season will be.

"I've never been able to race for the win, but now I think that perhaps I can."

Should Poels continue to gain steam through the coming Ardennes prep races, it seems likely that he'll be a name to watch.

Looking back to his near miss to Philippe Gilbert in Castelraimondo on Sunday, it's hard not to think that was a move that could win a Classic. He mistimed it sure, but he came oh so close to knocking it out of the park. As Gilbert said afterwards - that was a move he would have made in earlier years, but experience has given him that crucial bit of patience necessary to win bike races.

The first step is having the legs to make a move like that, the next step, winning, will come with time. Poels certainly has a lot of years ahead of him.

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