Gianni Meersman wins Volta a Catalunya stage two as Bradley Wiggins stays in touch
Gianni Meersman extended his overall lead of the Volta a Catalunya by sprinting to victory on stage two.
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 19/03/13 11:10pm
The Omega Pharma - Quick-Step rider launched his dash for the line with 100m to go and had enough strength to hold off Daniele Ratto (Cannondale) in second and Brett Lancaster (Orica-GreenEDGE) in third.
Meersman's cause was aided when a crash on the last corner wiped out a handful of riders, including stage one's second-place finisher, Valerio Agnoli (Cannondale).
The Belgian picked up 10 bonus seconds for his victory, meaning he now leads Spain's Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) overall by 16 seconds, with Danilo Wyss (BMC) a further four seconds further back in third.
Team Sky's Sir Bradley Wiggins crossed the line safely in the peloton and is now seventh in the general classification, 20 seconds down on Meersman.
"It was a great day for the team," Meersman said. "At the beginning we expected not a lot of support from other teams, which is quite normal. But, just as it was yesterday, the team was really strong. We managed to control the race."
Stage two took the riders 160.7km from Girona to Banyoles and, for the second stage in succession, Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEDGE) made his way into the break, this time joined by Christophe Laborie (Sojasun) and Olivier Kaisen (Lotto-Belisol).
The trio managed to open out a gap of just over three minutes, but with a short route and several teams keen to set up a bunch sprint, they were kept at arm's length.
Team Sky, Blanco and Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, who were looking after race leader Meersman, shared duties on the front on the peloton and reeled in the breakaway with 20km to go, on the second of four laps around Banyoles and its neighbouring lake.
Blanco continued to drive a high pace and led the pack into the final lap, but then the sprinters' began moving to the front as they looked to set up their lead-out trains in prime position.
Four riders tried to mount a breakaway with 3km to go and two Blanco men made a similar attempt inside the last 1km, but both were brought back by the surging sprint trains.
The crash threatened to disrupt the finale, but Meersman made an early break for victory and held on for an impressive win.
Stage two result
1 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, 3:48.09
2 Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale, same time
3 Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE, st
4 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
5 Robert Wagner (Ger) Blanco, st
6 Julien Simon (Fra) Sojasun, st
7 Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM, st
8 Laurent Pichon (Fra) FDJ, st
9 Danilo Wyss (Sui) BMC, st
10 Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Merida, st
1 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, 7:43.46
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +16secs
3 Danilo Wyss (Sui) BMC, +20
4 Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco, st
5 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Team Sky, st
6 David Lopez (Spa) Team Sky, st
7 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky, st
8 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Movistar, st
9 Dan Martin (Ire) Garmin-Sharp, st
10 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, st