Gianni Meersman took his second stage win of this year’s Vuelta a España yesterday when he won the sprint finish in Lugo, and in doing so, he became the first Belgian since 2012 to win two stage of the race.
The early break of the day was made up of just two riders – Tiago Machado (Katusha) and Julien Morice (Direct Energie) – and the peloton seemed more concerned about the rain and slippery roads which led to a slow race in the first half of stage 5, when the leaders were allowed to go six minutes clear. Once the sun came out, the chasers picked up the pace, with Martin Velits of Etixx – Quick-Step’s amongst the riders who worked hard to ensure everything came back together for the finish.
On the uphill section of the old town, Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) attacked and opened a 10-second gap, but despite their combined efforts they were soon reeled in, just before the final kilometre.
The narrow road and nervous fight to find a good position after that small climb led to a crash in the peloton, which was split by the incident, leaving only a dozen riders in the mix for the win. Piloted by an incredible Zdenek Stybar, who provided a superb lead-out, Gianni Meersman out-gunned Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) and Kevin Reza (FDJ), sprinting to his second victory in just four days and Etixx – Quick-Step’s 44th of the year.
Meersman was delighted after the stage: “It was already a dream come true to claim my maiden Grand Tour victory on Sunday, but to double up today leaves me without any more words. I felt really good, was confident in my legs and focused on what I had to do, and now I’m very happy to collect another win for the team and myself.”
“The race got off to a slow start, but things heated up in the last hour, when the speed increased in the peloton. The boys did a fantastic job today, they were again incredible and had trust in me, which was very important. You could see Zdenek’s lead-out was that of a man who knows his sprinter can win and it really made the difference in the final kilometre”, concluded Meersman, who seized the green jersey following his success in Lugo.