Meersman Wins Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race
Team Etixx-QuickStep's Gianni Meersman today sprinted to victory in the inaugural edition of Cadel Evans' own event, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
Meersman's victory in the 174 kilometer race was the result of his ability to combine masterful tactics with a remarkable sprint in Geelong, Australia.
Belgian Meersman took the victory after being part of a nine rider breakaway, which formed with a little less than 10 kilometers to go after four riders were up the road with an existing gap. Meersman's teammate David De La Cruz was part of the breakaway group and worked hard at the front for Meersman all the way until the final few kilometers.
The sprint out of the lead group began while a large chase group was closing in on the lead group from behind. But the front group's 9 second lead proved enough of a gap to decide the race. Meersman remained protected in an efficient and energy saving location within the group, waiting for the right moment to launch his own sprint. He timed his jump perfectly. Meersman, known for his prowess in small group sprints, outkicked the group on the right side and crossed the finish line ahead of Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) and Nathan Haas (Team Cannondale-Garmin p/b POC).
The victory also secured Meersman the red sprint jersey.
"I'm really happy with this victory and I am proud to be the winner of the inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race," Meersman explained to Roadcycling.com following the podium celebration. "As a group we've already been in Australia, racing and training for four weeks. At Tour Down Under I had one stage where I was in the perfect position at 100 meters to go, but I didn't have the legs yet. Then we came to Geelong, did a few days of hard training, and followed up with a few days where it was really easy before this race. This plan of training paid off."
"I felt good in this race and everybody on the team felt good after all the hard work we did to prepare. My team trusted me and had confidence in me and that meant a lot to me mentally as well. On the last lap of the circuit, the first climb, which was the really steep one, Cadel Evans attacked. I then gave everything I had to be in the select group that was coming together to decide the race. I made it along with my teammate David De La Cruz. David, once he saw me there, went full gas for me on the front. He did a great job keeping everything together until the last climb, and then it was up to me to finish the job," Meersman continued.
"As for the sprint, Cannondale-Garmin's Haas was with us and I knew he was one of the fastest guys in the group," Meersman explained. "I was in his wheel. When he launched his sprint I waited until about 150 meters to try and pass him. It worked out perfectly. I'm proud to get my first win of the season already in February. To be honest last year I won at just my third race of the year. I don't know why, but it seems I have a knack for getting a win in the beginning of the season. It's important motivation for me."
Team BMC Racing's Cadel Evans' own event - the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race - was also the final race of Evans' remarkable professional career. Evans finished fifth behind race winner Meersman in his final professional race. Evans' career peaked when he won the Tour de France in 2011. Evans won the Tour by showing true courage and remarkable willpower while staying observant at all times - a recipe that has not since been executed by any other rider in the Tour.
"I want to wish Cadel Evans the best in his retirement after a great career," Meersman said.
"From a rider's point of view I have to say I was very happy to make the front group today," Evans told Roadcycling.com after being celebrated on the podium. "It wasn't a very hilly race, but was raced in windy conditions. It was a really solid, hard, aggressive race. I have to thank my competitors and also the crowd for spurring on all the competitors and for the cheering ambiance. It made it nearly a classic."
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