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Belgian duo only separated by 0,12 seconds in dominant performance by their Omega Pharma-Quick Step team in short 4,5 evening prologue

Photo: OPQS / Tim de Waele










09.08.2013 @ 20:26 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The Tour de l'Ain kicked off with a short 4,5km evening prologue and the time trial ended up as a huge success for Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Gianni Meersman and Dries Devenyns made it a 1-2 for the Belgian team while Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne) finished 3rd, and so Meersman will wear the leader's jersey in tomorrow's first stage.


We haven't heard much from Gianni Meersman since he finished 2nd in the Belgian road race championships and went on to take three top 10 results in the Tour of Austria but today the Belgian made his return to the headlines by taking the win in the 4,5km prologue that kicked off the mountainous Tour de l'Ain today.


Being an early starter, Meersman faced a long wait in the hot seat before he could be crowned winner of the stage and first leader of the race but he only got a real scare once. That was when teammate Dries Devenyns finished in a time that was just 0,12 seconds slower than Meersman's and thus it ended up being a 1-2 for Omega Pharma-Quick Step. As Nikolas Maes finished 9th, the team even managed to place 3 riders in the top 10.


The best rider from another team was Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne) who was 1,05 second slower than Meersman in 5th while Belkin got their race off to a solid start as Stef Clement and Tom-Jelte Slagter finished 4th and 5th respectively. A couple of fast finishers also made it into the top 10 as Fabio Felline (Androni) and Adrien Petit (Cofidis) took 6th and 7th respectively.


Meersman now takes his lead into tomorrow's first stage where he could get a chance to double his tally. The route is completely flat and ends in a bunch sprint but the team will have to decide whether to go for another Meersman win or back young Andrew Fenn in the expected mass sprint.


Early best time for Duque

Leonardo Duque (Colombia) was one of the first riders down the ramp and the Colombian showed that the short course was one for the explosive riders by setting the early best time. He didn't get much time to enjoy his lead though as Luis Leon Sanchez (Belkin) finished in a time that was 0,71 seconds faster.


Julien Berard (Ag2r) moved himself into 2nd before Meersman was the first Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider to finish his time trial. The Belgian crushed the opposition by lowering the mark by more than 11 seconds.


Promising signs from Poels

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) finished far off the mark while Steven Kruijswijk (Belkin) made it into the provisional top 10 to set himself well up for the GC. That was also the case for Wout Poels (Vacansoleil) who crossed the line to move into the provisional second place.


Matthias Brandle (IAM) was the second rider to get below the 5.40 mark when he moved himself into 2nd but he was relegated a few moments later when Devenyns was the only rider to finish within a second of a Meersman's time. Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil) and Jerome Coppel (Cofidis) finished in quick succession to both make it into the provisional top 5.


No threat from the late starters

Felline and Slagter were the next riders to get close, both occupying the provisional 3rd spot at some point, and Petit and Maes were the next riders to make it into the top 10. All eyes were now on the last wave of riders from which the biggest challengers were expected to come.


However, Gerard ended up being the only of the late starters to make it into the top 10 when the Frenchman crossed the line in the 3rd fastest time. Hence, Meersman could finally leave the hot seat to instead step onto the podium and celebrate his 5th win of the season.


Result and general classification

1. Gianni Meersman 5.31

2. Dries Devenyns

3. Arnaud Gerard +0.01

4. Stef Clement +0.02

5. Tom-Jelte Slagter

6. Fabio Felline

7. Adrien Petit +0.03

8. Mathias Brandle

9. Nikolas Maes +0.04

10. Martijn Keizer



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