Volta Ciclista a Catalunya Stage 1: Meersman Wins From Long Distance in Select Group Sprint
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling team rider Gianni Meersman bided his time perfectly in the back a select group, which gained a quick gap on the descent of Alt de Collsacreau (Category 3) inside the final 25km.
Meersman sat near the back of the group, which included strong riders such as Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky Pro Cycling), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Robert Gesink (Blanco Pro Cycling Team) and others as their gap quickly opened up to 28" inside 10km. As the group continued to ride a high pace, it looked like the bunch sprint hopes of many would be thwarted.
Meersman waited inside the final km still near the back, and launched from a distance up the right side of the group. Meersman held his power and took the 16th win for OPQS, in three disciplines, in 2013. Valerio Agnoli (Astana) was 2nd, Valverde was 3rd.
The select group attacked on the descent of the final climb after the peloton had caught a duo that attacked early in the stage.
"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. During the race we passed through the finish line, so I knew the final climb and the descent. 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 then in the final, when I arrived at the sprint I was in the last position. 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, even considering the names at the front. 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. 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."
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 said the day would either be for me or Andy Fenn. So, it was my day and I am so happy. Tomorrow is another stage for riders with my skills. 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."