Volta Ciclista a Catalunya Stage 6: Meersman 2nd After a Hectic, Fast Stage
The pace at the 178.7km Stage 6 of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya was so high that the peloton covered 102km in just two hours of racing on Saturday. Breaks didn't have a chance with that kind of pace.
Finally, an eight rider break, with no riders from Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team, managed to get away. However, OPQS worked hard at the front to control the time gap and reel the riders in with just 4km to go. Carlos Verona and Gianluca Brambilla, along with the rest of the team, did tremendous work at the front to ensure a bunch sprint for OPQS.
Michal Golas was at the front leading out Gianni Meersman for the sprint, and Meersman started for the line. However, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) made his way up to Meersman's wheel and launched from there with about 150m to go, eventually passing Meersman and winning the stage. Meersman was 2nd, and Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2R La Mondiale) was 3rd.
"Fortunately there were two guys quite close at two minutes in the overall GC, so Garmin set the pace on the climb after the break went away at about 102km," Sport Director Rik Van Slycke said. "We kept the gap at one and a half minutes. 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. Then, with 20km to go there was another 2nd category climb for 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 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."
"At the last 400m or so 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 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 from 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. 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 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."