Meersman Wins Tour de Wallonie 2014
The Omega Pharma - QuickStep team held off an assault on the yellow jersey in Tour de Wallonie 180.6km Stage 5 on Wednesday, with riders attacking constantly in the final 30 kilometers, and some climbs in the final making it a challenge to maintain good position in the peloton.
OPQS rider Gianni Meersman fought to keep himself in contention through the final climbs, as his teammates took to the front to control everything. Despite a dangerous attack by Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol), who went solo with about 21km to go and gained as much as almost 30" on the field, every move was brought back and the team put Meersman in perfect position for the bunch sprint.
Zdenek Stybar led out Meersman, and he went on to win the stage in the yellow jersey. Yves Lampaert (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise) was 2nd, and Jasper Stuyven (Trek Factory Racing) was 3rd. Meersman had finished 2nd in the previous four stages, but extended his GC lead each day.
Meersman also won the points jersey.
Stybar, after being one of the tireless workers on the front marking every move possible, finished 10th in the stage and 9th in the overall. It was a team effort finished off by a Belgian rider, for a Belgium-based team, in a Belgian stage race.
“I am super happy about this victory,” Meersman said. “Not only for the GC, but also the stage win because after being four times in second place. For me, it’s important to be able to win this stage to finish off the great work of my teammates, and I did it, so I am thrilled. For me it’s the second stage race win of my career after 2011 when I won at Circuit des Ardennes. Of course Tour de Wallonie was special as the level of the competition was really good. So, this victory gives me even more satisfaction."
"I’m happy also for the team because before the race I felt really good. A few days before the race I called Sport Director Rik Van Slycke and I told him I would like to try for the GC. So, I did it, and we took the GC after two days. It’s a wonderful feeling to lead this team and have the team around me so we could win this race."
Meersman also has high hopes for the remaining part of the 2014 season. "My condition is good. This race opened up the second part of my season. My next race will be Clasica San Sebastian. I rode this race in 2012, where I earned a 3rd place finish in the overall. I've raced only once there and was on the podium, so that gives me confidence. I like the parcours and I am really looking forward to this race on Saturday with this good condition.”