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"For the next two seasons I seek further personal growth both in terms of numbers and in quality of results. First, though, there is the second part of this season to face and I am off to a good start."

Photo: OPQS / Tim De Waele








30.07.2014 @ 19:23 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After four consecutive second places, Gianni Meersman finally took the elusive win when he used a stage victory in the final stage of the Tour de Wallonie to secure himself the overall as well. Now setting his sights on the one-day classics in the autumn, the Belgian celebrated his victory by announcing a two-year extension of his contract with Omega Pharma-Quick Step.


Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling 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.


Meersman's victory was the 50th, in three disciplines, for OPQS in 2014 (48th road).

Stybar, after being one of the tireless workers on the front marking every move possible, finished 10th in the stage and 14th in the overall. It was a total team effort finished off by a Belgian rider, for a Belgian 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 finally won the stage victory and, more importantly, I won the overall classification as well. This is a great day. Of course I have to thank my team. They controlled the race perfectly. In the last kilometer, Zdenek Stybar ideally led me out for the sprint. I did my effort two hundred meters from the finish line and I could lift my arms. Nobody could challenge me for the victory.


"During the stage, I was in trouble once. This was on the Roche-aux-Faucons. Everybody was a bloc. I mainatined my tempo without putting me in the red zone. Later we picked up the pace.


"This final victory is also a revenge after my disappointment in 2012. thought I had won the race, but the last day I lost it by one small second. Today I won by more than thirty seconds. So there is no discussion. 

"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.


"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, when I earned a 3rd place finish in the overall. I 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."


OPQS is also happy to announce that they reached an agreement with Meersman on a contract extension of two years (2015 & 2016).


"Gianni is one of the team's snipers, a serious athlete who is always ready when the time comes, a guarantee for the team," OPQS CEO Patrick Lefevere said. "This year an accident at the Paris-Nice influenced the first part of his season.


"However, as you can see by his double win at Tour de Wallonie today, we are sure Gianni will be among the major players in the second part of the year, taking advantage of his intelligence in the race and his speed and sense of position in tight bunch sprints."


"Right from my first training with the team in winter of 2012 I immediately felt at ease, I felt really good in the group" Meersman said. "We have different nationalities but one common goal: To grow as a team. This is a real group where everyone looks out for the next guy. In my opinion this is really one of the team's strongest points.


"For the next two seasons I seek further personal growth both in terms of numbers and in quality of results. First, though, there is the second part of this season to face and I am off to a good start. After the accident in the Paris-Nice it wasn't easy to get back to my levels, even from a mental perspective. Now I have completely recovered and am in good condition after important training in Calpe, Spain, before this race.


"In the next few months the team and I have agreed that I will concentrate especially on the one day races, on the end of season classics. I will not be riding in the Vuelta, but I plan on being ready even for a possible participation in a World Championship that seems to be suited to my skills."


Stybar: I just followed the attacks

"The team was super strong," Stybar told Directvelo. "We did not panic. We stayed together as a team. I always knew that Gianni coudl return to the front when he seemed to be in trouble. It was ideal. 


"With three guys from Lotto, you had to have a team . It was great that I was there to neutralize the group. On the last climb, we rode tempo. And in the last five kilometers, we rode for the stage victory. With all the turns in the final, we made ​​sure that nobody could pass us. The reward is the stage win and the overall. 


"I did not really attack. I just followed wheels. Gianni was sure he could win a stage, but he finished second four times. Fortunately, he could win the last one. He must be pleased. 


"For my part, I think I'm on track for the second half of the season. I'm ready for the Classica San Sebastian. My role will be defined according to the scenario of the race."



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