Stage winner Gianni Meersman was superbly steered by teammate Zdenek Stybar through a nervous crash-marred finale, launching his sprint from 200 metres to take his second victory in this Vuelta. Fabio Felline and Kevin Reza, who had too much ground to make up, rounded out the podium. Race leader Darwin Atapuma and the other leading contenders dodged the two crashes within last 3km to finish safely in the pack.
Rider of the raceEmbed from Getty Images
With two wins in five stages, Etixx-er Gianni Meersman fully deserves to be VeloVoices’ Rider of the Race. His team had worked hard to bring back the two-man break of the day but the sprinters’ trains were disturbed in the final 2km when Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac) popped out of the peloton like a cava cork, hotly pursued by Philippe Gilbert (BMC). But both were hauled back with 1km remaining. Gilbert led the peloton into the final 800m with its 250m at 6% ramp, which is where Stybar hit the afterburners with Meersman on his wheel. It was a text book finish from 200m, as Meersman explained:
The lead out from Stybar was incredible and when I saw the 200 metres to go sign I just went, because I knew if I didn’t start the sprint the others would come from behind. But no one passed me and I’m very happy.
Ominously for the other sprinters, when asked “How many more victories in the Vuelta?” Meersman said “We’ll see!” No doubt the Belgians will be busting out the beer this evening to celebrate their seventh grand tour stage victory of the season.
Wishing all the riders who hit the deck a speedy recovery.
1 Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) 4:16:42
2 Fabio Fellini (Trek-Segafredo) same time
3 Kevin Reza (FDJ) s/t
4 Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) s/t
5 Zico Waeytens (Giant-Alpecin) s/t
1 Darwin Atapuma (BMC) 17:40:20
2 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:28
3 Chris Froome (SKY) +0:32
4 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:38
5 Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) same time
Points leader: Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep)
King of the Mountains leader: Alexandre Geniez (FDJ)
Combined classification leader: Darwin Atapuma (BMC)
Team classification leader: Movistar
Stage’s Most Combative Tiago Machado (Katusha)
For full stage review: Cycling News
Header image: Triumphant Meersman! (©GETTY/Jaime Reina)