Belgian signs for two seasons
After a breakthrough season with the Lotto Belisol team, Gianni Meersman has been recruited to the rival Belgian squad Omega Pharma-Quickstep for two seasons.
Meersman spent his espoir years in the Quickstep feeder team Beveren 2000, but when he was recruited to the ProTour as a neo-pro, he signed with Discovery Channel for 2007. He is now pleased to find a home back in the Quickstep fold.
"I'm very happy to become a part of this group and to ride side by side with great champions," Meersman said in a press release. "Patrick Lefevere had already sought me out in 2007. His faith in me is very important to me."
After 2007, the Discovery Channel team disbanded, but Meersman left with his first two professional wins - stages of the Tour of Austria and Tour de Georgia - and signed with Française des Jeux. He stayed there for four seasons.
After a solid start in 2008, which included a second place overall in the Etoile de Bessèges and a stage win in the Tour de Wallonie, Meersman had lingering knee problems in 2009, which resurfaced in 2010.
Despite the physical problems, Meersman was still able to show himself as a punchy sprinter, taking second overall in Paris - Corrèze. 2011 went much better for the Belgian, with an overall win in the Circuit des Ardennes, a podium finish in the Belgian championships and his first trip to the Tour de France.
Meersman made the switch to Lotto in 2012, and took his biggest victory to date with a stage in Paris-Nice to add to his stage win in the Volta ao Algarve. He topped a second overall in the Tour de Wallonie with a podium finish at the Clasica San Sebastian.
"My goal is to improve even more compared to last season and to try to increase the quantity and quality of my victories," Meersman said. "When I have what it takes to make captain I'm going to play my cards and when necessary I'll also put myself in the service of the team, as I've seen many champions from this squad do."
"Gianni's arrival further improves the team's technical capacity," said Quickstep team manager Patrick Lefevere. "I'm expecting him to have a season as a major player in some Ardennes Classics like the Brabantse Pijl or the Amstel Gold Race, as well as in some stages of important stage races or one day events.
"This year in races like the Paris-Nice Gianni has proven to be competitive in close group arrivals and in arrivals on slight uphills. I'm sure that Gianni will be able to mature even more next year and garner some important results for himself as well as the team."
Meersman's arrival brings the Omega Pharma Quickstep team's headcount to 29.