Meersman wins stage 1 of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2013
Team Omega Pharma-Quick-Step's Gianni Meersman proved to be the strongest rider of a group of star riders which escaped from the main peloton group on the descent of Alt de Collsacreau within a distance of 25 kilometers from the finish line.
Meersman sprinted across the finish line ahead of Valerio Agnoli (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) after a sprint, which was initiated by Tour de France Champion Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky and then dominated by Team Garmin-Sharp's strong Irishman Daniel Martin, before they eventually faded.
In addition to Meersman, Agnoli, Valverde, Wiggins and Martin, the breakaway group included strong and experienced riders such as Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida), Dario Cataldo (Team Sky Pro Cycling), and Robert Gesink (Blanco Pro Cycling Team). The group's powerful effort quickly built a gap of 28 seconds in the final ten kilometers, leaving major sprint aces in the main peloton wishing they had stayed in bed this morning.
The first part of today's stage 1 of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2013 was dominated by Cristiano Salerno of Team Cannondale Pro Cycling and Team GreenEdge's Christian Meier. The two riders attacked after just 15 kilometers and built a lead of more than eight minutes before they were eventually reeled in by a Sky team which was once again active at the front. Rigoberto Uran, David Lopez Garcia and Cataldo led the peloton over the final climb and continued to force the pace on the descent that followed until the 13-rider group was established.
"I'm in a good mood about the victory," a smiling Meersman said after the stage. "Volta Ciclista a Catalunya is one of my objectives. I want to do well in this race. During the stage 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."
"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," Meersman added.
"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."
Team Garmin-Sharp's Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal finished 38 seconds behind Tour de France champion Wiggins today.
Tomorrow's stage 2 of the 2013 Volta Ciclista a Catalunya is a 160 kilometer ride from Girona to Banyole. Girona is the home town of Team Garmin-Sharp's American Christian Vande Velde who is returning to competition in this year's Volta Ciclista a Catalunya after a six month doping-related suspension.
For our US-based readers we have video highlights from the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya all week