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"I'm in a good mood about the victory. Volta Ciclista a Catalunya was one of my objectives. I want to do well in this race," Meersman says

Photo: OPQS / Tim de Waele






18.03.2013 @ 20:52 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) used a combination of awareness, strong descending skills and his well-known final bust of speed to secure his victory for his new team in today's first stage of Volta a Catalunya. After a disappointing, premature end to his Paris-Nice, the Belgian had put his focus on the Spanish stage race.


Alongside a host of other fast finishers, Gianni Meersman was one of the pre-race favourites for today's first stage of the Volta a Catalunya. While his rival sprinters focused all their energy on getting over the last climb with the first group, Meersman proved his tactical nous by also staying aware on the subsequent descent. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) put down the hammer and drew clear a 13-rider group, and as a consequence Meersman's main rivals had all been eliminated when the sprint took place on the finishing straight in Calella.


The victory was the Belgian's first after he used the delayed Lotto-Belisol ProTeam license to break his contract and join the rival Belgian team. For a strong puncheur like Meersman, the hilly terrain in Catalonia is perfectly suited to his characteristics, and he had pointed out the race as a suitable opportunity to finally get off the mark in his new colours.


"I'm in a good mood about the victory," Meersman said. "Volta Ciclista a Catalunya was one of my objectives. I want to do well in this race."


Had to abandon Paris-Nice

Last year, Meersman took his most important victory when he powered to a stage win in the Paris-Nice in a hard uphill finish. He had targeted the French race again this year, but had to leave the race prematurely. Hence, he was glad to take revenge just a few weeks later.


"I was forced to abandon Paris-Nice and was a little disappointed because I knew my condition was there, but I wasn't able to show it," he explained. "So I stayed two days at home and then went to Calpe to train with Dries Devenyns and Pieter Serry. We did good work together, and today all the hard work paid off. Sometimes in cycling you have to be a little bit lucky and also have the good condition to do the right thing."


Familiarity with the descent

The key to his victory was his awareness when Wiggins accelerated on the descent. A previous encounter with that same descent had taught Meersman that gaps night open up at that point.


"During the race we passed through the finish line, so I knew the final climb and the descent," he told. "I knew the descent was a technical one, and I needed to stay near the front. I did a good job on the descent, and in the final I was in the last position , when I arrived at the sprint. I wanted no one to surprise me. So I launched the sprint very, very early — several hundred meters from the finish. After that, I didn't think of anything, but pulling and trying to do my best. I won and that's fantastic, especially considering the names at the front."


A strong team effort

Meersman is not the only fast man in the Omega Pharma-Quick Step squad for the race. Young British sprinter Andrew Fenn is also part of the team, and with two sprinters in its ranks the team took plenty of responsibility in the chase of the day's early 2-man break.


Meersman was pleased with the team's effort.


"I also want to thank the team," Meersman continued. "They were unbelievable today. Especially Julien Vermote and Carlos Verona. They started pulling from the beginning and if they hadn't done this, we would not have caught the break. So they did a great job. This morning in our team briefing Rik Van Slycke (sports director, ed.) said the day would either be for me or Andy Fenn. So it was my day and I am so happy."


Another opportunity tomorrow

With his victory, Meersman takes the first leader's jersey into tomorrow's second stage. With a number of laps on a flat final circuit, the stage looks suited to the sprinters. Once again the Belgian team will look to the duo of Fenn and Meersman, and the Belgian once again fancied his chances.


"Tomorrow is another stage for riders with my skills," he said. "This is the 8th victory of my career, but the quality of this win is also important. This year the goal was to be good in WorldTour races and more consistent throughout the season. I want to be more of a presence in the peloton, so this was a good start."


You can follow all the action from the second stage on starting at 15.15.



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