Vuelta a España: Gianni Meersman scores maiden Grand Tour victory
Not even a crash-marred finish could stop the Belgian from taking his biggest career win.
Gianni Meersman seized the day in the Vuelta a España and won stage 2 in the town of Baiona, which was making its return to the race after three years. The Belgian, riding the Spanish Grand Tour for the fifth time in his career, produced a very fast finish in the Galician municipality, capitalizing on the excellent work of his Etixx – Quick-Step teammates, who protected him in the closing kilometers and brought him to the front in an ideal position.
Before coming to the start of the Vuelta a España, Gianni polished his form in two short stage races, Tour de Wallonie and Vuelta a Burgos, and even though a win eluded him, he credited those events as having an important role in his preparation for the season’s final Grand Tour.
“Wallonie and Burgos were the two races that I needed to step up my game and be at 100%. In the past weeks, I was feeling better and better by the day and knew that I will come at the start of the Vuelta in a very good condition. This stage was my primary goal and to take it, after a superb work of the team, gives me a really incredible feeling”, said a beaming Gianni, the 85th Belgian rider to notch up a victory in the race.
Sunday's finish was a hectic one, but things turned out to be even more crazy due to some tricky corners and crashes which occurred in the last two kilometers. Escorted by his teammates, 30-year-old Gianni Meersman avoided any trouble and bided his time, starting the sprint from an excellent position, his fast legs and perfect timing bringing Etixx – Quick-Step its sixth Grand Tour win of the season.
“Not having the top sprinters here means things are more difficult to control, because everybody is aware of the fact there is a chance to pull it off. This leads all the time to huge stress and a nervous finale. Fortunately, I had the guys with me in the last two kilometers and they did a marvelous job. Styby worked hard, then Yves protected me from the wind and I could go with 200 meters left. I want to thank the boys and at the same time to dedicate this victory to my wife and my daughter”, an excited Gianni concluded at the end of the stage which sent him to the top of the points standings.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele