Meersman Sprints to Victory at Stage 1 of Romandy Tour
The Belgian took a bunch sprint to win the hilly, 176.8-km ride from St-Maurice to Renens in 4:29:09. Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Leopard) took second, and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) finished third. Prologue winner Chris Froome (Sky Pro Cycling) remains the overall leader.
The racing began in the opening kms. Julien Berard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Garikoitz Bravo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and David Veilleux (Europcar) sallied off of the front, and the trio led the field by five minutes at 60 km. Sky paced the peloton, and the bunch reeled in the break gradually. Counterattacks aided the peloton in its task, particularly one by Danilo Wyss (BMC), Jose Rujano (Vacansoleil-DCM), Adriano Malori (Lampre-Merida), and Peio Bilbao (Euskaltel-Euskadi). The field nabbed the fugitives on the day's final categorized climb, the Category 2 Col du Mollendruz, with 46 km remaining.
Pierre Dupont (Europcar) and Hubert Dupont (Ag2r-La Mondiale) attacked and led over the summit, but they never got more than 0:15 ahead of the field before being reeled in on the descent. The field stayed together on the descent, but Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling) jumped clear with 27 km to go. Jeremy Roy (Francaise des Jeux) joined the Austrian and the pair forged a 28-second lead, but that would never be enough to hold off the peloton. The bunch captured the pair with 6.5 km left.
The sprinters' squads kept the field under control during the runup to the sprint. Manuele Boaro (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) jumped away with a little more than two km left, but he did not get far before being reeled in.
BMC led the field into the last km, but no team had control at that point. Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) led out the sprint, but Meersman came off of Matthew Goss's (Team GreenEdge) wheel and held on for the win.
Meersman said that things went according to plan during the stage but that he was not Omega Pharma-Quick Step's only option. "It was a difficult stage," he said. "The team worked perfectly. It was hard in the final; at 500 m to go I had to brake. But then I found my good legs and saw a way to the victory. The goal today, if Mark Cavendish was still there after the last climb, was to go for him. If not, it would be a final for me. Unfortunately, Mark had a mechanical, and at that point we went for me. I was a little bit closed at 400 m to go, but I managed to stay in the front. Peter Velits brought me to the wheel of Matthew Goss...but when I saw the possibility to pass in the chaotic sprint I didn't wait. I decided to go by myself and not wait for someone else to launch. I did my sprint and if they passed me, no problem, but if not I could win. I'm in good condition if I could win a sprint like that, against riders such as Goss and others. My goal is to possibly go for another stage tomorrow or the day after. You never know."
In the overall, Froome leads Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) by 0:06 and Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack-Leopard) by 0:13. Stage 3 will be a rolling, 190.3-km ride from Prilly to Granges. It is a stage that is likely to end in a bunch sprint. Who will take it Meersman? Goss? Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!