Returning to Europe with second-overall at Le Tour de Langkawi has reassured Pieter Weening of his early season form and left him confident ahead of a targeted return to the Giro d'Italia. Weening has fond memories of the Giro, most recently donning the maglia rosa in 2011 after a solo escape to Orvieto along the roads of the strade bianche. It may be too early to call but his sortie in Langkawi suggests he may be on track for another successful grand tour experience.
Orica GreenEdge failed to win a stage in Langkawi, in what was the team's debut appearance however, Weening was pleased with his physical condition and proved to be one of the strongest climbers in the race. He attacked in the final kilometres of Genting Highlands with eventual race winner Julián Arredondo (Team Nippo) the only rider to be able to follow the Dutchman.
While unable to get off the mark in Malaysia the entire team demonstrated its intentions to animate the race with Travis Meyer's relentless breakaways, Aidis Kruopis numerous podium places in the bunch sprints with Allan Davis even stepping onto the podium on the penultimate stage - after he received a late call-up to the 10-day race and Kruopis was forced out due to injury. In all, the team can be pleased with its showing with Weening now eyeing a full assault on the first grand tour of the year.
"My shape here was, the last nine days were very good," Weening told Cyclingnews. "I'm happy with that, it's only early in the season but when you have good shape already it gives you plenty of confidence for the rest of the year.
"I've never been here before. It's 10 days but we had a lot of days, times where it was like 110-120k stages so that's not really too long with the stages of only two and a half or three hours. It's quite a good race for starting the season."
Asked if he believed the format of the race could be modified to retain interest and anticipation, with the suggestion of shifting the mountain stages to later in the race Weening believed the current layout works well. It may be a race with plenty of opportunities for sprinters but the 31-year-old was blunt in his assessment of the difficult two days into Cameron Highlands and Genting.
"It's a sprinters race but maybe you didn't see the two mountains! The GC is decided in the mountains of course and on the flat stages it's not easy to gain time back. GC is decided here in the mountains and not on the flat.
"If you put mountain stages early in the race it makes it more attractive for riders to go on the attack afterwards because there are already big time gaps in the GC. If you put the mountains in the last days then for sure the race is going to be more controlled. Then you get even more bunch sprints so I think this is better to create a nice race," he said.
Weening was in contention for a stage win atop Genting Highlands and when he attacked with 5km remaining he appeared prepared to sprint it out with Arredondo at the top. The Colombian had other ideas and after following the acceleration promptly left behind Weening with an impressive display of strength.
"It [my last win] was two years ago in 2011 at the Giro and even though it's early in the season if my shape is already this good in February then you have to be really happy. I did some good work in the winter but I didn't do to much, obviously it looks like it working out really well," Weening told Cyclingnews.
"After this I'll go to Tennerife to an altitude camp for two weeks and then we start the spring program in Europe with Basque country (Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco), Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, maybe Romandie but I'm going full for the Giro again."
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