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"I want to share this victory with the entire team. The leadout was perfect and it's always special to have Mark Cavendish in front of you in a finale."

Photo: OPQS / Tim De Waele








14.08.2014 @ 23:25 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

For the second day in a row, Gianni Meersman had Mark Cavendish as a lead-out man in a Tour de l'Ain sprint and unlike yesterday he finished it off with a stage victory. The Belgian was pleased to have such formidable support and will now do his best to hold onto the lead in the first mountain stage.


Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Gianni Meersman won his second race in three days at Tour de l'Ain, winning the group arrival of 158.5km Stage 2 on Thursday.


The race came back together with 3km to go, as one rider out of the original breakaway remained ahead by just a few seconds going into that point.


OPQS dominated control going into the sprint, and was able to place Meersman for the victory and also Julian Alaphilippe good enough for 4th place. Romain Feillu (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) was 2nd, and Leonardo Duque (Colombia) was 3rd.


Meersman held on to the yellow leader's jersey for all three days so far at the race, having also won the prologue for the second straight year. The Belgian rider has earned the 54th victory for OPQS (52nd road), in three disciplines, in 2014.


OPQS started off Tour de l'Ain strong, earning 1st-through-4th at the prologue. This placed all four riders in the top 4 of the overall classification as well. They remain in the top four of the GC after the second stage.


OPQS looks next to 142.8km Stage 3, from Lagnieu to Lelex-Mont Jura, on Friday.


"The guys did it perfectly today," Meersman said. "At one kilometer to go there was a corner on the right. Rigoberto Uran entered the corner full gas, and he kept the speed high. At 300 meters to go there was a left U-turn. Cav entered in first position with Alaphilippe and me on his wheel.


"When I came out from the corner I went all out for the sprint. I felt I had the right power in my legs and with the position I was in thanks to my teammates, it worked out exactly as we hoped.


"The team did a great job. I was a little disappointed after yesterday because my legs were really good but I started a bit too early. Today I really wanted to win. In a technical final, I'm always good.


"I had the best riders for the lead-out. But even if they are great, it is sometimes a bit of luck. Today it went well. Cavendish did the last corner perfectly, with Alaphilippe and me on his wheel. 


"I saw the sign 200 meters and then I started directly. I felt someone come back but I was focused on the line. I just looked at my front wheel but I could not see anyone. I was pretty confident. Sometimes it can be 150 meters too long.


"I want to share this victory with the entire team. The leadout was perfect and it's always special to have Mark Cavendish in front of you in a finale. But also guys like Pieter Serry and Carlos Verona, they did super well. Carlos, for example, pulled since the beginning of the race. It was really impressive.


"Tomorrow we will see. The graphic of the course is quite difficult but I will do my best to defend the jersey and if I can't do it, I will help my teammates. That's the great spirit of this team.


"Of course, I take ten bonus second, but I do not know how hard it will be tomorrow. We'll see. My goal at first was to win a stage. After three days, I have two. I'm really happy. I do know if I'll make it over the Menthières climb. I do not feel bad, so we'll see. There's no stress. In any case, I will try."


Thoughts of Meersman were also with teammate Zdenek Stybar, who suffered a bad crash at Eneco Tour that forced him to withdraw from the race.


"Immediately after the finish line they informed us about the crash of Styby," Meersman said. "I wish him a fast recovery, he is a fighter. This victory is for him."


"I knew that the finish was the same as that of a stage of last year's Tour de l'Avenir where I finished in third place," Alaphilippe told Directvelo. "It was pretty dangerous with a turn 300 meters from the line. Mark Cavendish launched us before the turn. Then I took over until 200 meters to go where Gianni made ​​his effort. 


"Everything is going well for us, I am very happy. We will continue to target stages until Saturday. For the general, we'll see. Rigoberto (Uran) is recovering, it is unclear how he feels."



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