Wouter Weylandt may have been an unexpected stage winner of the Giro in Middleburg, but victory was what he planned to respond to the criticisms of his employer.
Last month, Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefévère said he was not worried about the future but mentioned that 15 of his riders "should be worried because they're ending their contract this year". Weylandt was one of them. He felt concerned about his boss' comments which suggested that he wasn't winning much for the money he is getting paid.
Since 2008, when he came of age with a stage win at the Vuelta a España, Weylandt has won only stage 3 of the Three Days of West Flanders and Le Samyn last year.
"I'm very happy to win here today," the Belgian said after the finish of stage 3 in the Netherlands. "This confirms my performance at the Vuelta two years ago.
"This was an ideal stage for me because of the wind," said the 25 year-old from Gent. "I love that kind of racing."
"Every stage with a similar scenario, I ride in the front. The team was telling us to stay calm, but I wanted to be up the front to avoid the crashes. At the start of the sprint, I was in a too small gear, and I felt great when I put a bigger gear on. I knew by then that it would be hard for anyone to beat me."
After the finish, German Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) and Weylandt got in an argument. An angry Greipel had some words with the Belgian.
"It was pretty harsh," Weylandt said afterwards. "I had the feeling towards the end of the stage that Greipel wasn't going very well. I thought he had combined something with [stage 2 runner-up Matt] Goss, and I anticipated it. Goss changed his direction. I followed him because I suspected Greipel would leave a gap to let his leadout man go. That's how I touched Greipel's wheel, but it was just a normal move."
At the time of Weylandt's stage win, Lefévère was in a technical meeting in Meise at the factory of the Eddy Merckx Cycles. He tried to switch from a Dutch radio station to a Belgian one so he could listen to the live coverage, but he missed the finish and got to know the result only a few minutes later.
"This is an important victory for him but also for us," the team manager Lefévère said. "These past few weeks, the team wasn't at the level we expected. Wouter said in the Belgian press that he would respond to my criticisms on the bike, and I like to read that."
"I appreciate him as a person because he never looks for excuses. Even though I criticized him, I've always believed in his capacities. I wasn't happy yesterday because he was on the wheel of Fabio Sabatini who finished third, but he finished 14th. I also know that in cycling things can change quickly."
Those criticisms may have given Weylendt that extra kick he needed at the end of the sprint finish that concluded a chaotic day of racing.
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