Rabobank’s Pieter Weening scored an impressive solo win on the fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia, as the peloton returned to racing following the tragic death of Wouter Wylandt on Monday.
Weening made a late attack, having bridged up to a solo breakaway and then riding on to victory in a stage highlighted by the white roads of Tuscany, the famed strade bianche. Weening’s win vaulted him into the maglia rosa, as overall race leader David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) lost nearly three minutes on the day.
With last year’s spectacular stage to Montalcino in mind, Giro organizers were eager to include passages over the strade bianche again. This time, the hilly 191km stage Piombino to Orvieto was highlighted by three sections of the white gravel roads, totaling 19km, over the final 40km. Unlike last year’s Giro, in which the race’s passage over those roads was a wet and muddy experience, warm weather and dry conditions meant that riders fought dust and the instability of loose gravel. The net result was a number of big splits in the field and major shake-up in the overall classification.
Weening assumed the leader’s jersey, now holding a two-second advantage over HTC-Highroad’s Marco Pinotti, the first rider to hold the maglia rosa in this year’s Giro.
A long, lonely, sometimes dusty, road
Following Tuesday’s neutral stage, ridden in honor of Wylandt, his Leopard-Trek teammates opted to withdraw from the Giro, along with the late Belgian’s close friend and training partner, American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo).
With the encouragement of the departing Leopard-Trek team to “Put on a great race and come back home healthy,” the peloton rolled out of Piombino, still not quite ready to start racing from the gun. Nonetheless, as the pace increased, a number of riders tried to move ahead of the field, but it wasn’t until the 12km mark that the day’s break finally formed.
BMC’s Martin Kohler managed to slip from the grasp of the peloton and, once he did, the main field seemed content to let him go … at least for the time being.
Kohler worked diligently to take advantage of the situation and quickly built up a lead of 4:50 by the 16km mark. Over the ensuing 35km, Kohler extended that advantage to 12:50 before the peloton began to up its own pace and begin the process of gradually reeling in the lone escapee.
But Kohler wasn’t simply going to surrender to the inevitable and worked tirelessly, holding off the peloton for more than 160km and earning enough KOM points from the day’s two ranked climbs to earn the climber’s jersey.
On to the dirt
Kohler reached the final 40km with a still-substantial lead of more than four minutes, as he entered the first of three sections of dirt road. Behind him, the peloton began to fracture as riders fought to reach the often difficult roads at the front of the field.
The peloton’s ride over those sections was highlighted by a number of attacks, some of which were quickly neutralized by equally aggressive riding in the main field, crashes or mechanical issues.
It was on one of the few paved sections in the finale, around 15km from the finish, that Weening’s teammate, Tom-Jelle Slagter, caused brief anxiety when he fell hard and lay prone as race and team officials blocked traffic, attended his injuries and frantically called for the medical car.
Still conscious, Slagter was given medical attention at the scene before being taken to hospital.
Meanwhile, Kohler’s long solo effort came to an end around 10km from the finish after Weening and French cyclocross star John Gadret (Ag2r) managed to bridge up to the BMC rider, having attacked from a significantly reduced peloton.
Kohler was clearly tired and content to ride on his two companions’ wheels, but Weening soon attacked and left both Kohler and Gadret to chase in an ultimately futile pursuit.
While his two former breakaway companions were reeled in by the field, Weening went about laying the foundations of a deserved victory. By the time he reached the steep portion of the finishing climb that maxed out at 12 percent, it became apparent that the peloton had resigned itself to letting him ride in for the win.
Weening finished eight seconds ahead of Geox’s Fabio Duarte, who dominated the sprint for second place with compatriot Jose Serpa in third and Frenchman Christophe Le Mevel in fourth.
The 30-year-old Weening has one other grand tour stage win to his credit, winning a photo-finish against Andreas Klöden in the 2005 Tour de France.
The Giro’s sixth stage on Thursday features a 216 km ride from Orvieto to Fiuggi on mainly flat roads, giving the sprinters a rare chance to shine.
- 1. Pieter Weening (NED), Rabobank Cycling Team, in 4:54:04
- 2. Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (COL), Geox-TMC, at 8
- 3. Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (COL), Androni Giocattoli-Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni, at 8
- 4. Christophe Le Mevel (FRA), Garmin-Cervelo, at 8
- 5. Oscar Gatto (ITA), Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli, at 8
- 1. Pieter Weening (Netherlands), Rabobank Cycling Team, 14:59:33
- 2. Marco Pinotti (Italy), HTC-Highroad, at 2
- 3. Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Belarus), HTC-Highroad, at 2
- 4. Christophe Le Mevel (France), Garmin-Cervelo, at 5
- 5. Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spain), Movistar, at 22