Meersman sprints to repeat victory in 2013 Volta Ciclista a Catalunya
Earlier this afternoon Team Omega Pharma-Quick Step's overall race leader Gianni Meersman succeeded at sprinting to stage victory for the second day in a row in this year's Volta Ciclista a Catalunya.
The Belgian won the stage when he beat Team Cannondale Pro Cycling's Daniele Ratto and Brett Lancaster (GreenEdge) in a sprint across the finish line in Banyole.
Today's 160 kilometre stage 2 started in Girona - home town of many pro cyclists, including Team Garmin-Sharp's Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie who are returning to active competition after their respective six month doping-related suspensions.
Today's breakaway hopefuls were Lotto-Belisol's Olivier Kaisen, Sojasun's Christophe Laborie and Team GreenEdge's Christian Meier, who formed a trio a few kilometres into the stage. Omega Pharma-Quick Step, however, were not willing to hand over the overall race lead to a different team after today's stage, so the Omega Pharma-led peloton kept the breakaway group on a two-three minute leash.
The stage concluded with a 9.2 kilometre finishing circuit, which had to be contested four times and provided the participating riders with significant opportunity to preview the characteristics of the final kilometer. This, however, would eventually not prevent a crash in the final meters.
When Team Sky pulled away from the front of the peloton, no other team was able to build on Sky's hard work by setting the high pace needed to obtain continued control of the peloton. The Blanco Pro Cycling Team attempted to keep the peloton together, but were unable to prevent a three man group, spearheaded by Marcus Burghardt from escaping, though they were eventually reeled back in.
Many riders at the front appeared insecure and inexperienced in the final kilometer and clearly sought experienced riders who would be willing to take the initiative and pave the way to the final climax of the stage.
Reigning race leader Meersman took advantage of this situation and was first across the finish line. He thereby increased his overall race lead because of a ten second time bonus handed to the winning rider.
"Today it was a great sprint," stage winner and overall leader Meersman told Roadcycling.com after the stage. "The final circuit was nervous. I have to say the team did a great job in the last two kilometres. Dries (Devenyns) did a great thing closing the gap on two Blanco riders off the front, and then Andy Fenn led me to the 200 meter point. It was perfect for me, so I came out from the bunch and I did my sprint and I won. It's the first time I've won two stages in a row."
"Tomorrow we will go into the mountains. So it will be my turn to help and work for my teammates and try to give them back for all the help they gave me in these two first stages," Meersman added.
Tomorrow's stage 3 of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2013 takes the riders on a ride from the village of Vidreres near the coast and 180 kilometres into the mountain region of Catalonia, concluding at Estacio de Esqui Vallter near the French border.
For our US-based readers we have video highlights from the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya all week in our videos section . New clips are added every