Westra Wins Paris-Nice Stage Five, Wiggins Defends Yellow

March 8, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Vacansoleil's Lieuwe Westra punches the air with pride as he crosses the line to win Stage Five of the Paris-Nice cycling race. (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)
Vacansoleil's Lieuwe Westra punches the air with pride as he crosses the line to win Stage Five of the Paris-Nice cycling race. (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)

Vacansoleil’s Liuwe Westra put in a strong attack on the steep final climb of Stage five of the Paris-Nice cycling race, and race leader Bradley Wiggins of Sky couldn’t or wouldn’t answer. Westra advanced from sixth to second in the General Classification. Had he not eased up as he approached the finish line he might well have won the yellow jersey.

Westra rode to the win by 20 seconds, and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde caught Wiggins at the line, taking second and moving from seventh to fourth in GC.

Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s Levi Leipheimer finished fourth, right behind Wiggins, but dropped to third in GC.

“I felt good in the last hour and the goal was not to lose time on the final climb,” Westra told cyclingnews.com. “But with one kilometer to go Wiggins attacked and he didn’t get away so I decided to attack myself. I took 100 meters on the group and they didn’t catch me, unbelievable!”

“The team did a great job and this win is fantastic. Until Sunday I must try not to lose time and then we will see what happens in the time trial.”

A four-rider break escaped two kilometers into the 178-km (111 mi.) stage which featured six categorized climbs including a 3-km, 10-percent-grade mountaintop finish. This group, Simon Clarke (GreenEdge), Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil), Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar) and David Le Lay (Saur-Sojasun) opened a gap of almost seven minutes halfway through the race.

With 40 km to go, Rabobank’s Laurens Ten Dam and Astana’s Kevin Seeldraeyers tried to bridge to the breakaway. They succeeded, but by the time the two lead groups came together with 10 km left, the lead was down to 40 seconds. Two km later and all but Frederik Veuchelen had been swallowed up. The Vacansoleil rider pushed hard but got ridden down just past the three-km mark.

As the peloton hit the final climb, Sky’s Richie Porte led the peloton, with Bradley Wiggins about tenth. Wiggins moved to second wheel near the start of the climb, with Levi Leipheimer and Tejay Van Garderen following.

Riders kept falling off the back, even strong riders—Sylvain Chavanel, fourth in GC, cracked just past the 2-km mark, finishing ninth in GC.

With a kilometer to climb, perhaps a dozen riders were still following Richie Porte and Bradley Wiggins. FDJ’s Arnold Jeannesson attacked but couldn’t escape; Wiggins accelerated with Leipheimer, while Van Garderen couldn’t hang on. The young American rider dropped to sixth in GC.

As the leaders caught Jeannesson, Westra launched his attack and immediately opened a gap. Wiggins had nothing left; he was doing what he could to stay ahead of Leipheimer and Valverde.

Westra took the win, but didn’t take the jersey. Bradley Wiggins, though he said the jersey wasn’t important to him, is still race leader.

“Once again we took charge of the race; right from the start we took the responsibility and the boys rode fantastic again all day—I can’t thank them enough,” Wiggins said on TeamSky.com.

“In the final Rigo [Rigoberto Uran] and especially Richie [Porte] did a great job on the climb. It was a case of just time trialing to the summit, and I think that put everyone in the red. There was only one guy able to attack off that pace so it was a perfect day.

“I think the next two days should be kinder. Hopefully the weather will be warmer but today was the dangerous day. I think we’ve shown we’re the strongest here so I think it’s going to come down to Sunday—barring any crashes and stupid splits tomorrow. So there’s still a bit of concentrating to do but the harder stages are behind us.”

Stage Six, Suze-la-Rousse to Sisteron, 177 km (110 mi.) holds five categorized climbs, but none are long or steep. A Cat 3 climb (1.3 km at 6.8 percent) 12.5 km from the finish might weaken some of the sprinters, but the final eight kilometers are flat; this should be a sprint finish, possibly one for Valverde if the sprinters have any trouble over the climbs.

Paris-Nice Stage Five

 

Rider

Team

Time

1

Lieuwe Westra

Vacansoleil-DCM

4:52:46

2

Alejandro Valverde

Movistar

0:00:06

3

Bradley Wiggins

Sky

 

4

Levi Leipheimer

Omega Pharma-QuickStep

 

5

Simon Spilak

Katusha

 

6

Damiano Cunego

Lampre-ISD

0:00:16

7

Arnold Jeannesson

FDJ-Bigmat

 

8

Sylvester Szmyd

Liquigas-Cannondale

0:00:24

9

Rigoberto Uran

Sky

 

10

Thomas Voeckler

Europcar

0:00:30

General Classification after Stage Five

 

Rider

Team

Time

1

Bradley Wiggins

Sky

18:23:40

2

Lieuwe Westra

Vacansoleil-DCM

0:00:06

3

Levi Leipheimer

Omega Pharma-QuickStep

0:00:10

4

Alejandro Valverde

Movistar

0:00:18

5

Simon Spilak

Katusha

0:00:37

6

Tejay Van Garderen

BMC

0:00:39

7

Maxime Monfort

RadioShack-Nissan

0:00:46

8

Arnold Jeannesson

FDJ-Bigmat

0:01:06

9

Sylvain Chavanel

Omega Pharma-QuickStep

0:01:16

10

Robert Kiserlovski

Astana

0:01:21