Dutchman Lieuwe Westra won today’s stage of Paris-Nice at the top of Montée Laurent Jalabert in Mende. The Vacansoleil rider’s attack in the final kilometre also moved him up to second overall in the general classification.
Had it not been for his show-boating in the last 50 metres Westra could have taken the yellow jersey from Bradley Wiggins who was chasing behind. The six seconds Westra gained, plus the ten second time bonus, moved him to within six seconds of Wiggins in the general classification.
Having initially attacked himself, race leader Wiggins was left to do all the chasing in the last kilometre with Alejandro Valverde, Levi Leipheimer and Simon Spilak sitting behind him. All four stood to lose out to Westra who started the day in sixth place, 18 seconds down on Wiggins, but they all knew it was down to the Briton to defend the jersey.
A competent time trailer, Westra was the only rider able to get a gap on the brutal climb out of Mende, and it came as a bit of a surprise. Wiggins’ attack at around 1,500m to go had put American Tejay Van Garderen in trouble, and came off the back of an amazing bit of riding from team mate Richie Porte.
Porte had hit the front of the bunch as soon as the road started to climb out of Mende and immediately started putting riders in trouble. Rein Taaramae was the first of the big names to lose contact as the peloton rapidly shed riders. Then went last year’s winner Tony Martin, followed by Sylvain Chavanel and Luis-Leon Sanchez.
It was the perfect tactic by Sky who had watched Valverde’s Movistar team do all of the work over the previous two climbs. Montée Laurent Jalabert seemed like the perfect launchpad for Valverde whose punchy style is more suited to the steep climb than Wiggins’ more measured approach of managing his effort over a climb.
But Porte’s pace meant no one could attack, and Valverde, sat in around tenth wheel, didn’t look like a threat. Rigoberto Uran moved to the front when Porte eventually started to slow, but he couldn’t sustain the pace. Wiggins’ short burst came as Van Garderen started to fade, but when the pace dropped again, Westra saw his chance.
The Dutchman immediately had a gap, and it was down to Wiggins to chase. The pursuit went on for the last thousand metres but thankfully for Wiggins only amounted to a six second loss (plus the ten second time bonus).
Westra may celebrate his win tonight, but he may yet rue his decision to freewheel the lat 50 metres, pointing to his chest and posing for the cameras. It may have cost him a yellow jersey.
Paris-Nice 2012 stage five; Onet-Le-Chateau – Mende 178.5km
1. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM in 4-52-46
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 6s
3. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky
4. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
5. Simon Spilak (Pol) Katusha all at st.
6. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 16 sec
7. Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat at st.
8. Sylvester Szymd (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale at 24s
9. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Team Sky at st.
10. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar at 30 sec
Overall classification after stage
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky in 18-23-40
2. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 6s
3. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-Quick Step at 10s
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 18s
5. Simon Spilak (Pol) Katusha at 37s
6. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC at 49
7. Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan-Trek at 46s
8. Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat at 1-06
9. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step at 1’16
10. Rober Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana at 1-21
Simon Clarke heads the four-man escape group
Stage five terrain: Mountainous
Richie Porte winds up the pace on the final climb
Lieuwe Westra takes the stage win
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