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In a dominant performance by Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Meersman defended last year’s win in the Tour de l’Ain prologue when he beat his teammates Alaphilippe, Serry and Uran to make it an OPQS 1-2-3-4

Photo: OPQS / Tim De Waele










12.08.2014 @ 20:10 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

For the second year in a row, Gianni Meersman won the Tour de l’Ain prologue when he led a dominant showing by his Omega Pharma-Quick Step on the short 4.6km course. With Julian Alaphilippe, Pieter Serry and Rigoberto Uran occupying 2th to 4th place, the Belgian team made it a rare 1-2-3-4 in the opener of the mountainous French race.


Having recently shown good form with his overall victory in the Tour de Wallonie, Gianni Meersman was the overwhelming favourite to repeat last year’s victory in the Tour de l’Ain prologue. The Belgian lived up to expectations when he covered the technical 4.6km course in a time of 8.22 to take a 2-second victory.


However, few had predicted the stage to be dominated completely by his Omega Pharma-Quick Step in the way they did. Julien Alaphilippe, Pieter Serry and Rigoberto Uran ended up being Meersman’s nearest rivals and so made it a 1-2-3-4 for the Belgians in the mountainous race in the Jura mountains. With Marck Cavendish finishing 9th in his return to competition, the team even had 5 riders in the top 10.


As usual, the mountainous Tour de l’Ain kicked off with a short prologue and this year’s opener was held on a short 4.6km pretty technical course in Saint-Amour. There were a few hills on the course which made it one of the explosive riders.


The first rider down the ramp was Frederik Backaert (Wanty) who stopped the clock in 5.40 to set the first mark of the day. Already the second rider Arthur Fedosseyev (Continental Astana) was faster through as he posted a time of 5.38.


The young Kazakh held the lead for a few minutes before Timo Roosen was the first Rabobank Continental rider to do a good ride. The young Dutchman stopped the clock in 5.29 to become the first rider to go under 5.30.


Carlos Verona was the first OPQS rider on the course and he slotted into second with a time of 5.35 but he was relegated to third by Thomas Degand (Wanty) who two seconds faster. However, it was another Rabobank rider who knocked Roosen out of the hot seat when Lennard Hofstede set a time of 5.28.


The Dutchman enjoyed his lead until Meersman hit the course and last year’s winner lowered the marks significantly with his time of 5.22. Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) stopped the clock in 5.34 to move into fourth.


No one was able to get even close to Meersman before his in-form teammate Alaphilippe finished his ride. The young Frenchman was just two seconds slower than the Belgian to make it a provisional OPQS 1-2,.


The next rider to get close was Bretagne TT specialist Arnaud Gerard who slotted into third with a time of 5.27 but he was bested by another OPQS rider, Pieter Serry, whose time of 5.25 was good enough for third. Jerome Coppel (Cofidis) took over the position as best non-OPQS rider with a time that was fractions of a second better than Gerard’s.


Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) failed to make it into the top 10 while Dan Martin (Garmin) limited his losses with a time of 5.38. However, all eyes were now on Uran who got a perfect return to racing by slotting into 4th.


In the final wave of riders, no one was able to crack the top 10 before Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin) posted the 9th best time but the best rider among the late starters was of course from OPQS. Mark Cavendish stopped the clock in 5.30 to slot into 9th.


The focus was now on defending champion Romain Bardet (Ag2r) but as expected the French climber could not mix it up with the best. However, he did well by setting the 18th best time, losing just 14 seconds to Meersman.


Meersman now takes his two-second lead over teammate Alaphilippe into tomorrow’s first stage which should offer him a chance to make it two in a row. Only two category 3 climbs at the midpoint will test the riders and as the final half is pretty flat, a bunch sprint is expected.



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