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"I got dropped on the hard final climb but managed to come back. In a small bunch I noticed not all teams were complete and it meant possibilities for a late attack. When the early break almost got caught I attacked immediately",...







13.05.2013 @ 12:28 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) became a surprise winner of the hard, hot first stage of the Tour of California when he managed to escape the clutches of a tired peloton with 5km to go. The Dutchman took his first win of the season on a day where he had actually been dropped earlier in the race.


Vacansoleil has had a tough start to the 2013 season. On the 11th of May last year, they had already taken 7 wins but at the same time this year the team had only Thomas De Gendt's triumph in the last stage of the Volta a Catalunya on its list of victories. The team had started the Tour of California hoping to turn around its fortunes.


And the Dutch team did just that on the very first occasion. The team's GC rider Lieuwe Westra saw that Peter Sagan's Cannondale and Gianni Meersman's Omega Pharma-Quick Step had used up most of their domestiques to chase down a dangerous duo of domestic riders and he used to opportunity to solo off just as the break was caught with 5km to go. Francisco Mancebo (5 Hour Energy) joined the move and the duo was able to keep the peloton at bay, being 6 seconds clear on the line.


With Mancebo doing most of the work in the final kilometer Westra had no trouble beating his companion in a sprint to take both the win and the first leader's jersey. The win came as somewhat as a surprise as the Dutchman had been dropped on the day's final climb with about 40km to go but managed to get back on in time for his race-winning attack.


"I got dropped on the hard final climb but managed to come back," he said. "In a small bunch I noticed not all teams were complete and it meant possibilities for a late attack. When the early break almost got caught I attacked immediately. Mancebo happened to be very strong and I was patient enough to wait in the final kilometer so I could take the win. It is great to win here and it shows you have to believe in your chances also when you are dropped.”


Lieuwe Westra finished 2nd in last year's Paris-Nice and was 8th in the French stage race this year to prove that he has all the abilities to fight for the GC in one-week stage races with some climbing and a long time trial. This marks him out as a dangerous contender for the overall win in California, especially with a tough 31,6km time trial coming up in which he can fully express his talents as a specialist in the race against the clock.


Nonetheless, the Dutchman takes a cautious approach as yesterday's woes on the final climb show that his climbing may not yet be at its best as he prepares for the Tour de France.


“We will see, my climbing legs weren’t good today but they can’t get worst," he said.


The stage was an extremely tough one with temperatures close to 40C and plenty of climbing along the way. The hard day took its toll on some tired riders at the end and the Vacansoleil team was not spared at all with Thomas De Gendt, Tomasz Marczynski, Kris Boeckmans and Wesley Kreder all finishing more than 15 minutes behind their winning teammate.


“In these temperatures upto a 40 degrees Celsius nobody feels really good," sports director Hilaire Van Der Schueren said. "Some of our riders got cramps and had to fight to be in on time. Hopefully they get used to the conditions during the week.”


Westra will get his first indications of his GC possibilities in today's second stage which finishes atop a hard climb which averages more than 9%. He starts the stage with a 4 second lead on second-placed Mancebo.



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