Giro d’Italia: Stage and race lead for Pieter Weening after heroic Strade Bianche attack
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Giro d’Italia: Stage and race lead for Pieter Weening after heroic Strade Bianche attack

by Ben Atkins at 11:39 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Race Reports and Results
 
Race marred by a serious crash to Weening’s teammate Tom Slagter, but Dutchman said to be stable

pieter weeningPieter Weening (Rabobank) took both the stage victory and the race’s pink jersey on the tough medium mountain stage between Piomino and Orvieto, with a heroic solo victory. The Dutchman escaped as the race crossed the Tuscan white roads, then attacked his companions with just 9km to go and rode alone to the hilltop finish. Fabio Durate (Geox-TMC) led a select group of riders over the line, just 8 seconds behind Weening, with Jose Serpa (Androni Giocattoli-CIPI) taking third.

After yesterday’s moving tribute to Wouter Weylandt, who died so tragically on stage three, hostilities well and truly returned to the Giro d’Italia. As the peloton rolled out of the Etruscan city of Piombino, on the Tyrrhenian coast, though, it was without the remaining eight members of Weylandt’s Leopard Trek team and his close friend Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo), who abandoned the race last night.

The 201km course was to take in three sections of unsurfaced Strade Bianche in its closing stages, as the stage traversed the region of Tuscany. Conditions couldn’t have been more different to those experienced on last year’s epic stage to Montalcino though, with the peloton once again riding under the almost unbroken sunshine that has been a fixture of the race so far.

Another solo attack given plenty of time

After 12km Martin Kohler (BMC Racing) got away and, just as Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma-Lotto) had found on stage two, nobody wanted to go with him. Within two kilometres the Swiss rider had a gap of 42 seconds over the apathetic peloton, which grew to 4’50” as he passed through Follonica after 23km. Starting the day in 51st place, just 50 seconds behind race leader David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo), he was now the virtual maglia rosa.

By the time he reached Ribolla after 47km, with 150km still to race, Kohler had extended his lead to 11’50”; he managed to reach a maximum of 12’40” a few kilometres later, but this was as much as he was going to get. Millar’s Garmin-Cervélo team decided that enough was enough, and began to steadily reel him back in.

As he crossed the line at the intermediate “Traguardo Volante” sprint with 84km to go, Kohler’s lead dropped below eight minutes.

A crash for the maglia rosa, but nothing serious

As the peloton arrived at the intermediate sprint, which came immediately after a sharp bend, Millar and stage three winner, and second place overall, Angel Vicioso (Androni Giocattoli-CIPI) came together and went down as they were both shaping up to sprint for the remaining bonus seconds. Both appeared to be unhurt, but took a while to remount on replacement bikes; Millar briefly visited his team car, with a cut to his left elbow, but was shepherded back up to the waiting peloton by Murilo Fischer and the rest of his team.

As soon as Millar had caught up with the peloton Javier Aramendia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) counterattacked; he was pursued by Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), with Ruggero Marzoli (Acqua & Sapone), Leonardo Giordani (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) and Aliaksandr Kuschynski (Katusha). The five riders quickly got together and set about the pursuit of Kohler.

With the Garmin-Cervélo team reorganising after Millar’s crash the new group quickly opened up 45 seconds over the peloton, but were still 7’45” behind the lone BMC rider.

Millar’s team had no intention of allowing any new groups to get away though and so, once organised, they made short work of closing the gap to the five breakaways; the team in black and argyle caught them quite easily as they made their way up to Saragiolo the day’s first categorised climb.

The climbs begin and the white roads approach

Over the top of the climb, with 70km to go, Kohler’s lead was down to 7’14”, as mountain classification leader Gianluca Brambilla (Colnago-CSF Inox) led the peloton over; taking some more points towards his green jersey.

On the sweeping, open descent, Chris Butler (BMC Rading), Richie Porte (Saxo Bank-SunGard) and Ivan Rovny (RadioShack) came down towards the back of the peloton; the other two got up and away quite quickly, but Butler took a few moments to compose himself before following on behind them.

With 50km to go, and Kohler’s lead static at 7’12”, the Lampre-ISD team brought Michele Scarponi forward to keep him out of trouble as the “sterrata” of the white roads approached; behind him the Liquigas-Cannondale team was bringing Vincenzo Nibali forward too.

As he approached the first, 7.5km long, section of Strada Bianche, which included the climb to the Croce di Fighine, and was to start with just 39km to go, Kohler held just 6’30”. Behind him, most of the race’s big favourites were swarming behind Garmin-Cervélo at the front of the peloton, including Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard).

Just as the front of the peloton was passing beneath the 45km to go banner, a crash in the middle brought down a number of riders, including Matteo Montaguti (AG2R La Mondiale) and Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil-DCM); due to the position of the incident in the road, several more riders were forced to stop and put their feet down.

The favourites' teams begin to assert themselves

Having been working for most of the stage, Garmin-Cervélo found itself relieved at the head of the peloton by Lampre-ISD and Liquigas-Cannondale, as the Strade Bianche approached.

As Kohler hit the gravel road his lead was being eaten up steadily, and, as Astana took over control of the front, on behalf of Roman Kreuziger, it was just 5 minutes.

Movistar was the next team to wrest control of the front, but Garmin-Cervélo took it back as the gravel approached. Up ahead, Kohler’s legs were beginning to hurt on the steep unsurfaced gradients on the way up to the Croce di Fighine.

Liquigas-Cannondale was finally the team that led onto the white road section but, almost immediately, Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack) attacked. The Ukranian looked to have taken the peloton by surprise, but as the dusty gravel steepened, he found himself reeled in by the Astana team.

Having caught Popvych the Astana team was determined to keep control and continued to keep the pace high. As Kreuziger led the now splintered peloton over the top of the climb, with Scarponi and Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) right behind him, Kohler’s lead had been slashed to just 3’26”.

Chaos in the dust as Nibali attacks

Riders came over the top of the climb in ones and twos as the strong teams at the front had done their damage; up front though, Nibali attacked, showing the fearless descending that won him the Asolo stage over Monte Grappa in last year’s race. The Sicilian was all over the road with those behind him struggling to keep up through the dust.

As Nibali reached the tarmac road once more he was less than three minutes behind Kohler; he was joined by Weening but, with the dangerous gravel descent over, the front group of the peloton soon had them.

Not to be held though, Bram Tankink (Rabobank) attacked and was quickly joined by Przemyslaw Niemec (Lampre-ISD). The two of them were now 2’45” behind as they approached the second, shorter section of Strada Bianca. Niemec overcooked a corner though, coming to a standstill, and was overtaken by Dario Cataldo (Quick Step), who had attacked, and the Italian made it up to Tankink.

With attacks flying around from all sides, Popovych, the hero from the very first gravel section, found himself puncturing, losing the Ukrainian his good position on the road.

With the front group of the peloton more or less coming together after the fast, dusty descent, Millar found himself left behind with only one teammate for company. John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) tried to attack to get across to Tankink and Cataldo, but could only get a few metres clear.

Heroics from the maglia rosa, bad luck for the counter-attackers

With 25km to go Kohler held exactly two minutes over his two chasers, with the peloton just a few seconds behind them. Millar though, had a tough task to hang on to his maglia rosa on the remainder of the stage as he chased valiantly to rejoin the main group.

On the final section of white road, the longest at 9.5km, Tankink and Cataldo were steadily gaining on Kohler when disaster struck both riders. First Cataldo overcooked a corner and slid off into a ditch, then Tankink’s chain came off and he was unable to get it back on.

Rabobank was clearly determined though, and so the next move came from Weening again, with Gadret, the cyclocross specialist, joining him.

Millar was now completely isolated from his team, with just Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Fabio Taborre (Acqua & Sapone) for company; neither would offer any help, with several teammates each up the road.

With 20km to go Kohler was now less than a minute ahead of Weening and Gadret, who were still clear of the main peloton, which now numbered around fifty riders; Millar now had the back of the bunch in sight. Thanks to the Scotsman’s time trialling strength, he made it to the back of the peloton before the gravel ran out.

As he hit tarmac once more, with 15km to go, Kohler was ahead of Weening and Gadret by just 25 seconds

The race holds its breath as another young rider crashes hard

As the peloton followed onto the surfaced roads, Tom Slagter (Rabobank) hit the tarmac hard. The medical team was with him almost immediately, with Monday’s tragedy fresh in their minds, and appeared to be administering some sort of emergency treatment; he could soon be observed to be moving though, but stayed on the road as various race and team officials directed the straggling riders around him.

Almost as he passed under the 10km to go banner, Kohler was joined by Gadret and Weening; with the peloton just 8 seconds behind them though, with Astana and Lampre-ISD at its head, their days looked numbered at the front.

Weening makes his move with the peloton approaching

Impatient to get going, with 9km to go, Weening attacked the other two. Gadret spent the next kilometre and a half chasing him down, but was making no progress. The Lampre-ISD team was gaining on the duo of Gadret and Kohler, but Weening was away; with 5km to go, he led his previous companions by 11 seconds and the peloton by 34.

Starting the day just 35 seconds behind Millar, Weening was looking for a maglia rosa as well as a stage win.

Meanwhile, a few kilometres behind them, Slagter was still laying in the road as the medical teams attended to him; the young Dutchman had hit his head on the road and lost consciousness, but had reportedly come around and was stable; his race was over though, as he was transported to hospital by ambulance.

With 3km to go, as he approached the tough uphill finish, Weening led the peloton by 40 seconds. As they passed under the banner though, Gadret and Kohler were caught by the rest; the BMC rider had been in the lead for 186km, 179 of them alone.

The favourites close in, can the Dutchman make it?

Löfkvist (Team Sky) led the peloton as it hit the climb, increasing the pace, and Millar, having worked so hard to catch up, was in immediate trouble. The favourites of the race were all lurking behind the Swede though, and on the steepest section with just over 1.5km to go Scarponi attacked, followed by Contador, but the others were on him.

Weening was almost in sight now, as he passed under the final kilometre banner, and the riders behind the Dutchman looked far fresher.

Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) suddenly launched a big move out of the group, but Weening was now at the top of the climb and had time to celebrate as he took the second Grand Tour stage of his career, after his victory in Gérardmer in the 2005 Tour de France.

Duarte led the main group over the line, just 8 seconds behind the Dutchman, with most of the race’s favourites strung out behind him. Millar lost 2’50” to Weening, the Scotsman finishing alongside Kohler, and passed his maglia rosa to the Rabobank rider.

Result stage 5
1. Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank
2. Fabio Duarte (Col) Geox-TMC @ 8s
3. Jose Serpa (Col) Androni Giocattoli-CIPI
4. Christophe Le Mével (Fra) Garmin-Cervélo
5. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
7. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-SunGard
8. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
9. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana

Standings after stage 5
1. Peiter Weening (Ned) Rabobank
2. Marco Pinotti (Ita) HTC-Highroad @ 2s
3. Kanstantin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad
4. Christophe Le Mével (Fra) Garmin-Cervélo @ 5s
5. Pablo Lastras (Spa) Movistar @ 22s
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale @ 24s
7. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD @ 26s
8. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank @ 28s
9. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-SunGard @ 30s
10. Jose Serpa (Col) Androni Giocattoli-CIPI @ 33s

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