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"It's a little disappointing, the team worked hard for it, but unfortunately Gerrans was a little bit faster today. But OK, we will see tomorrow. The big teams are still fighting for the overall, but we have a plan to see if we can...

Photo: OPQS / Tim de Waele

GIANNI MEERSMAN

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VOLTA A CATALUNYA

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24.03.2013 @ 09:59 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) came tantalizingly close to taking his third win in yesterday's penultimate stage of the Volta a Catalunya. He was beaten just on the line by a fast Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), and the team now focuses on today's final stage to make amends for yesterday's defeat.

 

Gianni Meersman has been one of the stand-out riders in the Volta a Catalunya. With wins in the first two stages of the race, he has proved to his competitors just how fast he is at the end of a hard, challenging race.

 

Yesterday, he was very close to make it three victories in just 6 days of racing. When he opened up the sprint, he seemed to have the win sewn up, but an amazing burst of speed by Simon Gerrans allowed the Australian to pass his Belgian rival just on the line.

 

The sprint came at the end of a very fast race where 102 km were covered during the first two hours of the race. Many riders saw the stage as a perfect opportunity for a breakaway, and plenty of riders set off on the attack. Ironically, the aggression ruined the chances of any escape. As the final break was created close to the finish, the sprinters' teams could easily keep it in check, and it was all brought back together.

 

Kept the break under control

With Meersman perfectly suited to the finish, Omega Pharma-Quick Step - alongside Ag2r with Samuel Dumoulin - did much of the work to ensure the final bunch kick.

 

"Fortunately there were two guys (in the break, ed.) quite close at two minutes in the overall GC, so Garmin set the pace on the climb after the break went at about the 102km mark," sports director Rik Van Slycke said. "We kept the gap at one and a half minute. We decided at the top of the climb to start working. So we put young guy Carlos Verona at the front to take a little time back. With 20km to go there was another 2nd category climb at about 5km. So the guys did another good job to cut the gap to 40", and then on the climb other teams were getting nervous and started pacing full gas, so the peloton exploded into different parts. After the top, they were 12" back with 25 riders. We were lucky to have Gianni and (Michal, ed.) Golas there. So they started pacing in the downhill. Then at about 5km to go, the group came together and then we went to the finish with 35 riders."

 

Perfect lead-out

Golas made sure to enter the final corner in the first position with Meersman in his wheel, and he did a perfect lead-out effort. However, Meersman was forced to brake just as he opened his sprint as he had to avoid a swerve from Daniele Ratto (Cannondale).

 

"With 400m to go there was a last corner before the finish," Van Slycke continued. "Golas took the first position and did the leadout. Meersman was in good position and in a perfect situation. Then in a certain moment the speed slowed a little bit, he moved a little to the left to open the gap. But in the chaos he had to stop his sprint when guys were going on the left side in front of him. Finally, he passed Golas and got position in the last 20 meters or so, but Gerrans had his speed from behind on the wheel of Gianni. He came in the last moment and passed Gianni. So it's a little disappointing, the team worked hard for it, but unfortunately Gerrans was a little bit faster today."

 

Hopes for the final stage

The team now hopes to make amends in today's stage. With the fight for overall glory between Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) very close, most expect the Spaniard to put in an attack on the steep Montjuic climb in Barcelona which has to be climbed 8 times - the last one with just over 3km remaining.

 

However, Van Slycke does not rule out that Meersman may play a role in the final.

 

"But OK, we will see tomorrow (today, ed.)," he said. "The big teams are still fighting for the overall, but we have a plan to see if we can try again in the final to win the stage. As they say, 'It ain't over till it's over', so we will go for it another time tomorrow morning."

 

The team is not involved in the overall battle as the team's best placed rider, Dries Devenyns, is 7.14 behind in 34th.

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