Dutchman Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil capped an impressive climbing display with victory in the fifth stage of Paris-Nice between Rodez and Mende Thursday and credited his form to his new slim-line look. Britain’s Bradley Wiggins, third at 6-seconds, just behind Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, retained the race leader’s jersey with a 6sec lead now on Westra as American Levi Leipheimer dropped to third at 10-seconds.
“It’s a great day in my career. Winning a stage of the Paris-Nice, it’s fantastic,” said Westra. “I wasn’t doing very well at the start of the season, but over the last few days I have been performing a lot better. I am climbing better and am lighter in weight having gone from 72 to 68 kilos over the last year. As I am living in Spain, I can train in the mountains. I felt fine on the last climb and after the last kilometer, I decided to take my opportunity.”
Westra added that he is also eyeing the winner’s yellow jersey.
“Yes, of course. Perhaps it’s possible to do it. But I have no regrets, the stage today has pleased me.”
Sky rider Wiggins said his form was affected by the conditions.
“It was a terrible day with the cold,” said the Briton. “My teammates Richie Porte and Rigoberto Uran did some amazing work. Today, we probably had the toughest day. It wasn’t my kind of climb, but I worked a lot in the winter for these situations.”
The race concludes near Nice on Sunday.
Paris-Nice Stage 5
1. Lieuwe Westra (NED/VAC) 4:52:46
2. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) @ .06
3. Bradley Wiggins (GBR/SKY) s.t.
4. Levi Leipheimer (USA/OPQ)
5. Simon Spilak (SLO/KAT)
6. Damiano Cunego (ITA/LAM) @ .16
7. Arnold Jeannesson (FRA/FDJ) s.t.
8. Sylvester Szmyd (POL/LIQ) @ .24
9. Rigoberto Uran (COL/SKY) s.t.
10. Thomas Voeckler (FRA/EUC) @ .30
General Classification After Stage 5
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBR/SKY) 18:23:40
2. Lieuwe Westra (NED/VAC) @ .06
3. Levi Leipheimer (USA/OPQ) @ .10
4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) @ .18
5. Simon Spilak (SLO/KAT) @ .37
6. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) @ .39
7. Maxime Monfort (BEL/RSH) @ .46
8. Arnold Jeannesson (FRA/FDJ) @ 1:06
9. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA/OPQ) @ 1:16
10. Robert Kiserlovski (CRO/AST) @ 1:21