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Having been led out by Mark Cavendish, Meersman won the final sprint stage of the Tour de l’Ain by holding off Feillu and Duque in the bunch kick; 10 bonus seconds allowed him to extend his overall lead

Photo: OPQS / Tim De Waele

DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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GIANNI MEERSMAN

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LEONARDO DUQUE

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ROMAIN FEILLU

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TOUR DE L'AIN

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14.08.2014 @ 18:27 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) proved that he deserved the confidence from his teammate and the support from Mark Cavendish when he won today’s second stage of the Tour de l’Ain in a bunch sprint. The Belgian held off Romain Feillu (Bretagne) and Leonardo Duque (Colombia) and managed to extend his overall lead in the process.

 

Yesterday Mark Cavendish told his Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammate Gianni Meersman that he was not ready to sprint as he was just coming back from the injury sustained in the Tour de France. Hence, he put himself in service of his teammate who was disappointed only to take third in the first bunch sprint of the Tour de l’Ain.

 

Today the sprinters got what is expected to be their final chance in the race and again Meersman had the support from his teammates. This time he didn’t disappoint as he beat Romain Feillu and Leonardo Duque to take his second victory in the race after he won the opening prologue.

 

The stage was held on a completely flat 158.1km route from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Vulbas and unless the wind started to blow heavily, it was expected to be a straightforward day for the sprinters. As the riders took the start in nice conditions, all was set for a bunch kick.

 

Right from the start Quentin Pacher (France Espoirs), Jean-Lou Paiani (Roubaix) and Jerome Gilbert (Wanty) attacked and as everybody expected the stage to be firmly controlled, the peloton was content with the situation. At the 4km mark, they were already 1.35 ahead and after 10km of racing, their advantage was 3.35.

 

As expected, OPQS hit the front and they started to control the situation. They got some assistance from Francis Mourey (FDJ) and the two teams kept the gap stable at around 4.30 for most of the day.

 

Paiani beat Pacher and Gilbert in the first intermediate sprint while the peloton still took it pretty easy. With 80km to go, they started to accelerate and 10km later, they had brought the gap down to just 2.50.

 

The escapees responded well and managed to keep the gap stable at around 3 minutes. With 25km to go, the situation started to change when Garmin-Sharp joined the chase and with 20km to go, OPQS and the American team had brought the gap down to 2 minutes.

 

Pacher attacked in the breakaway and started to gradually distance his former companions. Meanwhile, FDJ also started to chase in the peloton and with 12km to go, Pacher was only 1.10 ahead.

 

Inside the final 10km, Gilbert and Paiani were caught while Pacher did really well to maintain a 30-secon advantage. With 6km to go, he was still 12 seconds ahead but with 3km to go, it was over for the young Frenchman. From there, all was set for a bunch sprint in which Meersman emerged as the strongest.

 

With the win, Meersman extended his overall lead and he goes into stage 3 with a 16-second advantage over his teammate Julian Alaphilippe. Tomorrow, however, the terrain gets a lot tougher on a course that is up or down all day. The riders will tackle four smaller climbs before the hit the category 1 Col de Menthieres. The summit comes just 21km from the finish and they consist of a descent and a gradual 10km rise to the finish.

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