Vacansoleil rider Wout Poels moved into the top 10 overall in Tirreno-Adriatico with another solid ride, confirming he is back on track following severe internal injuries sustained in the 2012 Tour de France.
The 25-year-old Dutchman moved up in the general classification on Saturday's mountain finish at Prato di Tivo, where he came 8th on the stage, just 43 seconds behind Chris Froome. He followed that with another strong ride in the penultimate stage in Porto Sant'Elpidio where he finished in the chase group with Froome and moved himself up in the standings to 10th behind new leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Poels powered up the 27% grade of the Sant'Elpidio a Mare with the overall contenders, leaving behind him a trail of riders zig-zagging or walking their way to the top. "I have never seen such a course," Poels said. "But if you going well, then it's kind of fun. Only the strongest were left."
While the result would be solid for any rider, it is all the more remarkable for Poels, who just six months ago was coming off three weeks in the hospital following a crash on stage 6 of the Tour de France that left him in intensive care with broken ribs, a ruptured spleen and kidney damage.
"Who would have thought seven months ago that I would finish in the top ten of a climb in Tirreno? Nobody!" Poels exclaimed after Saturday's stage finish. "I had not expected this yet. Until a kilometer from the finish I was at the front. If you see which top riders were there, that says something. This was quite a difficult climb of 14 kilometers."
Poels looks set for his first top 10 finish since he put himself on the list of Tour hopefuls after he placed second overall and won a stage of the Tour of Luxembourg last June - it's a big step for the Dutchman, who faces only a 9.2km time trial before the end of the race. "Even if I have a bad time trial my Tirreno is successful," Poels said today. "I'm obviously going to give it everything. It would be great if I could make the top 10 in my first World Tour race back. In the Volta ao Algarve I was 14th on a climb, but the level at Tirreno is of a different order ... I am making progress. I'm not there yet, but I'm on the right track."
After Tirreno-Adriatico, Poels plans to further test his form at the Vuelta a Pais Vasco.