Paris-Nice Stage 5: the moment the race was won

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Lieuwe Westra heads for the finish line whilst a select group led by yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins chases.

It was a perfect day for Dutch team Vacansoleil-DCM. Their rider Frederik Veuchelen was in the four man breakaway that went right from the start and he won enough points on the climbs to take the mountains jersey. With a man up the road Westra was able to sit tight. Sky lead the chase for much of the day before Movistar and BMC took over and the bunch was thinned by the high pace in the last third of the stage.

As soon as the climb started Veuchelen was caught and Sky’s Richie Porte set an asphyxiating pace that saw many big names gasping for air as they went out the back. Porte’s intense riding discouraged any attacks and set up Wiggins nicely for the finish. The first to attack was FDJ-BigMat’s Arnold Jeannesson. The Frenchman is another one to carry the burden of “French hope” but his ability is real. Only he struggled to get a gap. On a climb as steep as this an acceleration takes a big effort and he paid.

Everyone was waiting for Alejandro Valverde to strike but he was unable to attack. Instead Westra lifted himself out of the saddle and jumped. A moment’s hesitation and the big Dutchman was away. Westra has been riding well all week. 19th in the prologue and he made the group of 21 riders who exploited the crosswinds on Stage 2. But today was his best result. With several wins to his name, he has been better known as a time triallist, for example winning the Tour of Belgium prologue last year. Maybe the mountain finish surprised him too since he sat up to savour the win, pointing at his jersey in a victory salute routine that lost him a few precious seconds. He’s only six seconds down on Wiggins and some say his celebrations cost him the yellow jersey. But I’m not so sure.

Thomas Voeckler made the top-10. If you missed the TV, you only need to image the scene as he honked his way up the final climb, as if his knees were waving to the spectators. Voeckler was interviewed by French TV before the stage saying “je suis un peu juste” which translates from French into English as “my form is bit short” but from Voecklerish into English it means “I fancy this stage”.

If Westra was the winner today, Wiggins did well. Not a pure climber, the high pace on the steady ramp suited him and at times his legs were a rotary blur as he spun a low gear up the climb. Can he win the race? Yes. But Paris-Nice always reserves surprises and he knows his lead is only a puncture away from disaster.

Note today’s stage took in some of the roads described in Tim Krabbé’s book De Renner, The Rider. This time a Dutchman won.

1 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM 4:52:46
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:06
3 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
5 Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha Team
6 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre – ISD 0:00:16
7 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ-Bigmat
8 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:24
9 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling
10 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:30
11 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan
12 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
13 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:00:42
14 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Project 1T4i
15 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM
16 Maxime Bouet (Fra) Ag2R La Mondiale
17 Javier Moreno Bazan (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:48
18 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana Pro Team
19 Fränk Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan
20 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2R La Mondiale

cwardy March 8, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Thanks INRNG- another excellent day of coverage.

Peter March 8, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Inner Ring, your comments on “the moment the race was won” have been fantastic. This is a great addition to the blog. Thank you!

Peter

Chris March 8, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Haha, Voecklerish, brilliant.

What a finish today, those roads looked horrendously steep.

Really enjoying these ‘the moment the race was won’ posts. Are you planning on doing one for the whole race after Sunday? I wonder what moment it will be. Westra’s attack today perhaps, Wiggin’s performance in the first TT, the split on stage 2 or a moment yet to come. There’s plenty of excitement still left in this race I’m sure.

Gerrald March 8, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Of course it is still very early in the season, but for a second year ProTour team with limited funds, I feel Vacansoleil-DCM is doing fantastic. See http://cqranking.com/men/asp/gen/cqRankingTeam.asp?current=1 for current team ranking.

For Lieuwe this is great – he has been part of the team since the start, this must be very rewarding for him.

Neil Browne March 8, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Sean Kelly gave Westra crap for coasting the last 25 meters or so and said that might have cost him the jersey, but like you, I don’t think so. I’m sure Vacansoleil-DCM appreciates Westra taking the time to point to this jersey as he was crossing the line.

Gerrald March 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm

@Neil: Sporza (Belgian) and NOS (Dutch) did so as well. I also thought this was a bit harsh – more something for inside the team at the evaluation than on television. Of course it will be extremely ironic if Lieuwe happens to miss the jersey by less than 3 seconds, but I would suggest let’s wait for that moment before starting commenting negatively on his ride. So I fully agree with you.

Schmirnov March 8, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Thanks for pointing our the tie-in to The Rider. Super book that’s worth a re-read every “season.”

Larry T. March 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm

I have to side with King Kelly on this one. I too thought the guy spent too much time clowning around. It’s one thing on a flat, high-speed run-in where you don’t lose much by sitting up and celebrating, but another thing on an uphill finish where that costs a lot of time. He could have gotten almost as much attention AFTER he crossed the finish line and a LOT more if he’d managed to take the race lead…which I thought was sort of the object of the entire effort? I doubt he’ll make this mistake again though a veteran like Erik Zabel got caught out like this once at Milano-San Remo as I recall.

Ablindeye March 8, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I think perhaps Westra was as surprised as everyone else and forgot he was still in GC contention! Regardless I think he would still have been a few seconds short of yellow.

I’ve heard talk of him losing some weight and working on the climbing through the winter. This may mark the beginning of him transforming himself from a TT specialist into a more rounded rider just as Wiggins did before him back in 2009. Poetic that it should manifest itself with that very man chasing him down in a battle for yellow.

Paul I. March 8, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Another vote for The Rider, wonderful book. And keep up the great work, Inrng.

Matt March 9, 2012 at 12:46 am

Was it just me that thought Jeanneson attacked too soon. Where as Westra timed his attack to perfection.

Ablindeye March 9, 2012 at 1:05 am

Firstly congrats to Westra for upsetting the favourites. On the celebration, I’ve just been reminded of stage 2 of Oman 2010 when he celebrated the “win” a lap before the finish – today was definitely an improvement.

ave March 9, 2012 at 1:14 am

He was very impressive!!
I’m sure he was surprised to see that he is winning the stage. I was too.
And actually he didn’t look exhausted at all. How do these pros manage that after such a climb, I’ve no idea. :)

Ablindeye March 9, 2012 at 1:24 am

@ ave Westra did look comfortable though maybe the adrenalin of such a big win was helping. By contrast some of the others look shattered, the camera caught Wiggins collapsed on the bike as he came over.

eurotodd March 9, 2012 at 2:48 am

I like Voeckler.

ouabacher March 9, 2012 at 3:15 am

Speaking of early celebrations, I remember a young racer in F2 or F3000 (whatever they called it at the time) celebrating a win at Monaco on his final lap by slowing over by the wall to salute his team, a common practice…….. if you’re well ahead. He was passed. Oops!

Robbo March 9, 2012 at 4:41 am

“as if his knees were waving to the spectators.” I love it. The only thing more painful than watching Voeckler climb was watching that attack by Jeannesson. Of course we know hindsight that he went too soon. Porte really crushed that lower portion.

JimW March 9, 2012 at 4:49 am

Hey INRNG,

Had no idea you do some bloggin for Cycling News.
That’s nice of them.
Keep up the great work.

Thanks!

Ian March 9, 2012 at 10:55 am

@Peter – total echo this sentiment, this daily analysis combined with the preview for each stage makes for great reading and knowledge enhancement. Cheers

Dan March 9, 2012 at 11:25 am

Another great post, this has become my first port of call for insightful pieces on cycling.
Veering (slightly) off topic, Vacansoleil’s Marcato also messed-up at the 2010 Tour de Pologne with a lap to go!

Peleton Boy March 9, 2012 at 11:41 am

You’ve got to love Thomas Voeckler.. Valverde really surprised me – i thought he’d be all over this one. But Richie Porte! Take a bow son. The pace he set and punishment he took in putting in a shift for his team captures perfectly the fascination and beauty of pro cycling.

el tejan March 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Absolutely no way he lost his chance to unseat Wiggans as a result of his (admittedly premature) celebration. First, at any given time his maximum gap was only a handful of seconds. Second, he was still moving at some sort of pace. Let’s call it conservatively 20kph. Now let’s liberally say he could have ramped it up to 40kph if he hadn’t celebrated. Let’s call the distance 25m. 20kph = 20000mph = 333.33mpm = 5.556mps. So he would have covered 25m in 11.11 seconds at 20kph and twice as fast naturally at 40kph. The delta, here, in this extreme example is less than 6 seconds. At a more realistic difference in speed over the final 25m, he celebration likely cost him something more like 3-4 seconds, which wouldn’t have been enough to overcome Wiggans.

Sharkie March 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm

No mention of Leipheimer “pilot fishing” his way to the finish?

el tejan March 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Oops! The last step of my math is wrong. The elasped time I calculated was based on 50m, not 25, making the likelihood of overtaking Wiggans even more unrealistic.

Rooie March 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Love the comment and math of el tejan

trounder March 9, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Late to the party here, but did anyone else feel a momentary shot of searing pain in their legs watching Voeckler “churn the butter” up that last km? He makes it look hard, which I like, because it is true!

Westra looked super fresh when he pulled away at the top of the climb, which I also liked. As others have said, 1) his coasting to the line makes you wonder if he had any idea that he might be pedaling for something more than the stage win; and 2) perhaps he was criticized because it looked like he left something in the tank, compared to Wiggo and the bunch at the end.

Also, @el tejan: I think the maths should be 25m / 5.556mps = 4.5 secs at 20kph and 25m / 11.111mps = 2.25 secs at 40kph. Given the assumptions, your conclusion that he did not lose 6 seconds is correct.

gilbert March 9, 2012 at 9:59 pm

it would be perfect if you could write the moyenne also not only the result
thanks

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