After a solid first week at the Giro d'Italia, where he spent the majority of the time inside the top-20 and moved as high as ninth at the end of Stage 7 Pieter Weening appeared to be on track to deliver Orica GreenEdge a rare result in the general classification standings in just their fourth grand tour appearance. However, trailing in 8:42 behind the day's winner Maxim Belkov (Katusha) at the end of Stage 9 has seen those GC hopes dashed.
Weening was never expected to ride for the overall classification in the first grand tour of 2013 but after a steady build-up and strong showing at the Ardennes classics, it was believed the former stage winner and wearer of the maglia rosa could post an overall classification result for the Australian ProTeam. It was in 2011, while riding for the Rabobank squad that Weening pulled on the pink jersey in Italy and while he has never been considered a real grand tour GC candidate, his opening week had been promising.
When the Dutchman lost contact with the front group on the penultimate climb of Stage 9 it was apparent that he would lose a serious chunk of time by the conclusion of the 170km medium-mountain stage. Now, entering the rest day more than 10 minutes down on race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and in 38th-overall Weening will now target a stage win, according to sports director Neil Stephens.
"On the second to last climb, Pieter just couldn't do it anymore," said Stephens on the team site. "He wasn't having a good day, and that's all there was to it. Unfortunately in this game, if you have a bad day on an easy day, you can sort of fake your way through it, but on a hard day, a bad day is brutal."
Weeening's best result at the Giro was in 2010 when he finished 24th overall before returning the following year with 45th place but stage win and pink jersey to show for it.
With a more than capable sprinter in the squad in the form of Matt Goss, it appears the focus for Weening will shift to pin-pointing a couple of stages that may suit the characteristics of opportunistic rider and then going for a stage victory. With the GC battle now seemingly out of reach, it would be expected that he will come into use on the flatter days where Goss is eagerly anticipating the next bunch sprint.
"We started today with the idea of doing two things over the next week," added Stephens. "We wanted to maintain a decent overall results for Pieter and go for stage wins. Any GC hopes we might have had with Pieter are gone now, so we'll simply readjust our motivation. We hadn't expected to be riding for the overall and moving forward we'll focus exclusively on stage wins.
"Pieter will spend the next few days recovering a little bit. He went pretty deep over the last couple days and produced a decent time trial yesterday. We'll have him back off and ride himself back into good legs. I dare say that he may have a good chance for a stage win in the future now that he's lost some time."
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