MENDE, France (VN) — Did Lieuwve Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) blow a chance to grab the race leader’s jersey at Paris-Nice after coasting across the line en route to winning in Thursday’s decisive climbing stage?
Maybe so, but Westra says celebrating what he called the most important win of his career to date was worth savoring.
“It’s already the biggest day of my career, to win a stage at Paris-Nice. Today is just super the way it is,” said the Dutch rider. “Maybe if I went faster to the line, I could take the jersey? I don’t know. For me, the stage win is enough.”
Westra, 29, eased off the pedals in the closing 75 meters when he was confident he had the win in the bag and coasted across the finish line, pointing to his Vacansoleil kit and raising his arms in triumph.
That might have cost Westra a few seconds that could come back to haunt him if he can remain close to the overall lead going into Sunday’s decisive climbing time trial up Col d’Eze.
Westra earned a 10-second winner’s bonus and nudged into second overall at just six seconds behind race-leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky), with Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) slotting into third, at 10 seconds adrift.
Westra said it doesn’t matter; at least he’s saying that now.
“It’s good for the team (not to have the jersey). We won’t have to be at the front for the next two days,” he said. “I hope for two sprints the next two days, then we have the time trial on Sunday. Then we’ll see.”
Westra is no slouch against the clock, where most of his top results have come. Last year, he was eighth in the world time trial championships and won the TT stage at the Tour of Belgium; the Dutchman was also second to Tony Martin at the Volta ao Algarve and third in the TT at the Tour de Romandie.
Westra, who now lives and trains most of the year in Spain, shaved four kilograms off his weight coming into this season, giving him more firepower in the climbs.
He showed off that leaner build with a well-timed attack with 800m to go to win the stage and nearly ride away with the leader’s jersey.
“I am a specialist in a time trial and now I win here on this climb. For me it’s unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve had good legs, I was third yesterday. I felt really good in the last hour. On the last climb, the feeling was perfect. I said this is my day. When Wiggins attacked, I followed. I thought, ‘why not?’ I had good legs. I went in the last 800m and I took 100m and it was enough for the win.”