Gianni Meersman gave another demonstration of his sprinting prowess in races more attractive to climbers by winning stage one of the 2013 Tour de Romandie today.
The Belgian, winner of two stages in last month’s Volta a Catalunya, sprinted across the line first at the end of a 176.4km stage punctuated with three categorized climbs, seeing off the challenge of Giacommo Nizzolo (Radioshack-Leopard), who was second, and third-placed Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida).
Meersman took on the role of the Belgian super team’s lead sprinter after Mark Cavendish suffered a mechanical at the foot of the final climb of the day.
He said: “The team worked perfectly. It was hard in the final. At 500 meters to go, I had to brake. But then I found my good legs and saw a way to the victory.”
The Belgian team, now with 22 victories in 2013, hit the front in the final 10km after a day largely controlled by Team Sky, riding in defence of Chris Froome’s yellow jersey. The Kenyan-born Brit took the race lead with a commanding victory in yesterday’s prologue.
Froome praised his team for a “good, solid start” to their Romandie campaign and said he had been happy for the sprinters’ teams to take up the pace making in the closing kilometers.
“We started off in total control of the race. Even when the attacks came on the final climbs the guys just stayed calm and we all stayed together,” said Froome.
“Josh [Edmondson] in particular and Gabba [Rasch] spent a lot of time on the front today. That was fantastic and the team rode really well.”
The stage winner and race leader ended the day with ominous warnings for their rivals. Meersman signalled his willingness to target a second stage win, perhaps as early as tomorrow. The Belgian’s campaign in northern Spain contained back-to-back stage victories.
And Froome, targeting victory in cycling’s biggest race this summer, declared today’s display of controlled aggression from his men the norm.
“It’s really good to be in this position and getting used to being in this position now going forward,” he said.
Tomorrow’s 190.3km stage from Prilly/Ouest Lausannois to Granges includes a flat opening section, an ascent of Plagne.
Tour de Romandie – stage one – result
1) Gianni Meersman (BEL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – 4.29.09
2) Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) – Radioshack-Leopard – ST
3) Roberto Ferrari (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
4) Luke Mezgec (SLO) – Argos-Shimano
5) Kevin Reza (FRA) – Europcar
6) Francesco Gavazzi (ITA) – Astana
7) Matt Goss (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
8) Rui Costa (POR) – Movistar
9) Gaetan Bille (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol
10) Marco Marcato (ITA) – Vacansoleil-DCM
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 4.24.24
2) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Garmin-Sharp +6″
3) Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) – Radioshack-Leopard + 13″
4) Richie Porte (AUS) – Team Sky +15″
5) Rui Costa (POR) – Movistar +16″
6) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ +17″
7) Stef Clement (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling
8) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar
9) Tom Danielson (USA) – Garmin-Sharp
10) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling