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Belgian takes third WorldTour victory this season by holding off Giacomo Nizzolo and Roberto Ferrari in a sprint at the end of the 1st stage of the Tour de Romandie

Photo: OPQS / Tim de Waele






24.04.2013 @ 17:31 Posted by Simon Knudstrup

Gianni Meersman showed that Omega Pharma-Quick Step have more than one sprint option in the Tour de Romandie as he won the first stage today. With teammate Mark Cavendish dropped on the final climb the Belgian took over the role as the team's preferred sprinter and he held off Giacomo Nizzolo (Radioshack) and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre) to take the win.


With a hard category 2 mountain inside the last 50km of today's 1st stage of the Tour de Romandie it was always doubtful whether Mark Cavendish would remain in contention for the expected bunch sprint in the city of Renens. The Manxman proved to be unable to keep up with the peloton but instead Omega Pharma-Quick Step's other sprint option Gianni Meersman showed that he is also a fast man.


Well-placed behind a number of his teammates in the hectic run-in to the line, he managed to negotiate safely through the chaos of a lead-out in which no team was able to take control. In the end the Argos-Shimano duo of Reinhardt Van Rensburg and Luka Mezgec emerged at the head of the peloton as the former tried to lead out the latter.


As soon as Mezgec opened his sprint, a gap opened for Meersman who had a perfect clear run to the line. Giacomo Nizzolo approached him fast at the end but the stage was a few meters too short for the Italian to take the stage win. Roberto Ferrari finished third while Mezgec took 4th place.


The group was still fairly large at the finish and none of the GC riders were put into any difficulty today. Hence, yesterday's prologue winner Chris Froome keeps his overall lead 6 seconds ahead of Andrew Talansky (Garmin).


Froome should get another easy jersey defence in tomorrow's stage which once again seems to be one for the sprinters. However, there are some climbs in the final part of the race and like today it will be a question how many of the sprinters will be able to survive the hard ascents.


Starting at 16.00, you can follow all the action on


A trio breaks clear

The 176,5km stage from Saint-Maurice to Renens was a hard one with more than 2000 meters of climbers. However, the final category 2 climb was located with 41,3km to go and the expectation was always that Sky would be able to control the race and a sprint was the most likely outcome.


From the gun Julien Berard (Ag2r), Garikoitz Bravo (Euskaltel) and David Veilleux (Europcar) managed to escape and the trio were allowed to build up a gap of almost 5 minutes. In the peloton Sky started to control proceeding and the British team made sure that the advantage never got too big.


Brave won the first two of the day's three KOM sprints and as he was third in the last one, he ended the day in the mountains jersey. Meanwhile, the gap started to come down and on the lower slopes of the day's final ascent, the trio was only 1.30 ahead of the peloton.


Valverde on Spilak on the attack

Attacks started to go off and a chase group of Jose Rujano (Vacansoleil), Marcel Wyss (IAM), Adriano Malori (Lampre) and Peio Bilbao (Euskaltel) managed to open up a decent gap. Moments later more riders joined them as Simon Spilak (Katusha), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar), Jan Bakelants (Radioshack) and Georg Preidler (Argos) also went on the attack.


Meanwhile, Berard dropped his companions but his solo escape was short-lived as the trio were all picked up by the chase group. Valverde and Spilak were, however, way too dangerous for the Sky team and with a hard tempo from Vasil Kiryienka and Peter Kennaugh, the move was closed down.


Rolland and Dupont go clear

With everything back together, Kiryienka and Kennaugh kept a high pace to discourage any further attacks. Nonetheless, Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Hubert Dupont (Ag2r) went on the offensive and they crested the summit of the climb with a slight advantage.


With 39km to go they were, however, caught and it was once again all back together. The aggressive racing continued and after a short-lived attack Matthias Brandle (IAM) managed to build up a decent gap with 27km remaining.


A front duo is created

Jeremy Roy (FDJ) and Moreno Moser (Cannondale) set off in pursuit and while the Italian could not keep up the pace, the Frenchman managed to join Brandle to form a strong duo. For many kilometres they kept an advantage of around 30 seconds.


Cavendish had been dropped on the climb but most sprinters were still in contention and their lead-out trains started to get organized. With 16km to go Omega Pharma-Quick Step (with Meersman), Orica-GreenEdge (with Goss), BMC  (with Blythe) and Cannondale (with Viviani) took over the pace-setting duties from Sky.


An unorganized sprint

With 6km to go, Roy and Brandle were caught and some very confusing kilometres followed. No team was able to take complete control and the sprinters fought hard for their position in the front end of the peloton.


Mauele Boaro (Saxo-Tinkoff) put in a short-lived attack with 2km to go but he was chased down by the peloton led by Richie Porte (Sky). As they passed the flamme rouge Marcus Burghardt (BMC) hit the front with Blythe in his wheel. He was replaced by Van Rensburg who gave Mezgec a perfect lead-out but in the end Meersman was the fastest and he took his third WorldTour victory of the season.



1. Gianni Meersman

2. Giacomo Nizzolo

3. Roberto Ferrari

4. Luka Mezgec

5. Kevin Reza

6. Francesco Gavazzi

7. Matthew Goss

8. Rui Costa

9. Gaetan Bille

10. Marco Marcato


General classification:

1. Chris Froome 13.15

2. Andrew Talansky +0.06

3. Robert kiserlovski +0.13

4. Richie Porte +0.15

5. Rui Costa +0.16

6. Thibaut Pinot +0.17

7. Stef Clement

8. Alejandro Valverde

9. Tom Danielson

10. Wilco Kelderman +0.18



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