Gianni Meersman Takes Opening Stage At Tour of Catalonia


Belgium’s Gianni Meersman won the first stage of the Tour of Catalonia in a sprint finish at the end of the 159
kilometre ride to Calella.

The Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider just edged out Valerio Agnoli
(Cannondale) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on the line, with Tour de
France winner Bradley Wiggins finishing in sixth.

Despite the fact that the first 13 riders to cross the line registered the
same time of 3 hours 55 minutes and 56 seconds, Meersman receives a 10-second
bonus for winning the stage, with Agnoli and Valverde also receiving six and
four second bonuses respectively for finishing on the podium.

However, despite failing to finish in the top three it was still a good day
for pre-race favourite Wiggins as he and his Sky teammates led a late push on
the final descent into Calella that opened up a 28 second lead over the
chasing pack.

The early stages of the race saw Christian Meier and Cristiano Salerno
break away and build up a commanding lead of eight minutes and forty seconds
just 38 kilometers in.

However, their lead was slowly chipped away as the Movistar and Omega teams
worked the peloton back into contention and eventually caught the front two
with 25 kilometers to go.

At that point Team Sky then forced the pace over the final climb of the
Collsacreu and managed to force a split on the final descent with the
breakaway pack accelerating away to build up a significant advantage.

Wiggins was ably supported by his team teammates as they headed towards
Calella, but the four-time Olympic champion was followed by the Spanish duo of
Valverde and Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez, both of whom are expected to be
challenging the Briton for the overall victory come the final stage on Sunday.

It was Meersman though who just managed to nose in front with an impressive
late surge to register his first stage victory of the season and take an early
lead in the seven-stage tour around the Spanish region.

Results after the first stage of the Tour of
Catalonia on Monday, a 159 kilometre ride around Calella:

1. Gianni Meersman (BEL/OPQ) 3hr 55min 56secs, 2. Valerio Agnoli (ITA/AST)
same time, 3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) s.t, 4. Daniel Martin (IRL/GRM)
s.t., 5. Danilo Wyss (SUI/BMC) s.t., 6. Bradley Wiggins (GBR/SKY) s.t., 7.
Robert Gesink (NED/BLA) s.t., 8. Michele Scarponi (ITA/LAM) s.t., 9. David
Lopez (ESP/SKY) s.t., 10. Dario Cataldo (ITA/SKY) s.t.

1. Gianni Meersman (BEL/OPQ) 3hr 55min 46sec, 2. Valerio Agnoli (ITA/AST)
at 4sec, 3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 6, 4. Daniel Martin (EIR/GRM) 10, 5.
Danilo Wyss (SUI/BMC) 10, 6. Bradley Wiggins (GBR/SKY) 10, 7. Robert Gesink
(NED/BLA) 10, 8. Michele Scarponi (ITA/LAM) 10, 9. David Lopez (ESP/SKY) 10,
10. Dario Cataldo (ITA/SKY) 10.