Giro d’Italia: Six years on, Weening winning big once again
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Giro d’Italia: Six years on, Weening winning big once again

by Shane Stokes at 7:21 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
Stage winner and new race leader speaks

Pieter WeeningHe’s been a long time waiting, but today Pieter Weening grabbed the second Grand Tour stage victory of his career and, with it, the first leader’s jersey in a three week race.

“This is a really special day for me. This is not a regular day in my life, so I will never forget this,” the Dutchman said in a press conference held in the historic Piazza del Duomo. Clad in the leader’s Maglia Rosa, he holds a two second lead over HTC Highroad duo Marco Pinotti and Kanstantsin Sivtsov, having grabbed the pink jersey by a very slender margin.

Weening came to prominence in 2005, scooping stage eight of the Tour de France in a two-up sprint with Andreas Klöden. The German had previously won Paris-Nice, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and an Olympic medal and when the two went clear on that stage to Gérardmer, most presumed he’d be first to the line. Weening thought otherwise, though, and in a battle of the non-sprinters, pipped him to the line.

That result at 24 years of age prompted expectations that a major career was in store, but since then the number of victories has been modest. He won a stage of the Tour of Pologne in 2005 and took one in the 2009 Tour of Austria. This year has seen things pick up, though, and he highlighted his strong form recently with sixth overall in the Tour de Romandie.

Now he’s on top in the Giro d’Italia. “It was 2005 when I took my victory in the Tour. I’ve had to wait a long time since then. For riders like me, it is not easy to win races…a lot of times, it is a bunch sprint,” he said. “I have to do it in stages like this. It is really hard to get big victories. But once in a while when you have good legs and the perfect parcours for you, then it is possible.”

After riding well over the white dust roads of the area, Weening made his move inside the final 15 kilometres of today’s stage. He accelerated clear with John Gadret (Ag2r La Mondiale), and together they reeled in the longtime leader Martin Kohler (BMC Racing Team). The Dutchman then pushed on ahead, opening up a substantial gap over them en route to the line.

“We worked very well together. Then in the final I chose to attack on my own. There was still a very strong ride by Gadret. I was still not very sure of the victory with the last climb…I had to try to survive it,” he said.

The race favourites were behind and getting anxious, seeking to test legs and open gaps. The attacks started firing off and the acceleration naturally brought the other riders closer to the front. Weening knew what was going on, and had to resist.

“On the last part of the climb, I saw that it was getting a little bit flatter with a bit less than two kilometres to go,” he said. “I looked back and I had a few seconds in front…I went flat out on the big ring, giving everything to the finish… I am very happy with this result, and the pink jersey.”

Having taken stages in both the Tour and the Giro, Weening was inevitably asked which ranked higher in his estimation. He admitted that they were close, due to the fact that he grabbed the pink jersey too.

“For a cyclist, the Tour is the biggest event,” he explained. “For sure the win in the Tour is more special, as it was also my first big win, and also it was in the Tour. But with the Maglia Rosa, this is also very special…the two are really similar, it is really close.”

Moving on from sad events:

Weening’s victory helped to get things moving forward again after the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt earlier this week. The peloton took it easy during yesterday’s neutralised stage, but today the battles raged and, at the finish, the podium presentations were back to their usual celebratory style.

Even so, it’s going to take the peloton quite a while to get over it. . “It was a really terrible day for cycling,” said Weening. “This is the first time in my career I saw something like this happen, and I hope it will be the last time and we never go through this again.

“Today at the beginning of the stage, one guy was away. During that time, you still speak a lot about it [the accident] in the peloton. But once the race is on, the race is on, even if you still keep it in mind. It was a really bad day for cycling history. You know it can happen, but I hope it doesn’t happen again.”

Instead of fixating on what happened, he and the rest of the peloton will look ahead. For Weening, that means focussing on keeping the jersey as long as possible. He’s in pink, he’s leading the GC of the second biggest stage race in cycling, and he’s back to the form of 2005. At 30 years of age, he’s delivering on that early promise with a renewed burst of form.


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