After four straight second places, Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) caps off Tour de Wallonie with a stage win
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Belgian extends for two years with Omega Pharma-Quick Step
For the Belgian Omega Pharma-Quick Step team, victory in the Belgian Tour de Wallonie by its Belgian rider Gianni Meersman brought up its 50th win in three disciplines for 2014.
Meersman had finished second on the first four stage of the race but victory on the fifth and final stage sealed his first overall win of the year while teammate Zdenek Stybar finished ninth overall.
"I am super happy about this victory," Meersman said. "Not only for the GC, but also the stage win because after being four times in second place. For me, it's important to be able to win this stage to finish off the great work of my teammates, and I did it, so I am thrilled. For me it's the second stage race win of my career after 2011 when I won at Circuit des Ardennes.
"Of course Tour de Wallonie was special as the level of the competition was really good. So, this victory gives me even more satisfaction. I'm happy also for the team because before the race I felt really good. "
Meersman explained that on the eve of the race he was feeling confident of a good performance having enjoyed almost a month's break of racing and let the team know of his ambition.
"A few days before the race I called Sport Director Rik Van Slycke and I told him I would like to try for the GC," Meersman. "So, I did it, and we took the GC after two days. It's a wonderful feeling to lead this team and have the team around me so we could win this race. My condition is good. This race opened up the second part of my season.
The next race for the 28-year-old will be the Clásica de San Sebastián which he last rode in 2012 and finished third.
"I raced only once there and was on the podium, so that gives me confidence," Meersman said of the Spanish on-day race. "I like the parcours and I am really looking forward to this race on Saturday with this good condition."
Meersman victory also secured his future with the team for another two years having joined the team in 2013 from Lotto-Belisol. The team's CEO Patrick Lefevere was happy to make the announcement regarding another resigning of his riders as he looks to secure the team's roster.
"Gianni is one of the team's snipers, a serious athlete who is always ready when the time comes, a guarantee for the team," Lefevere said. "This year an accident at the Paris-Nice influenced the first part of his season. However, as you can see by his double win at Tour de Wallonie today, we are sure Gianni will be among the major players in the second part of the year, taking advantage of his intelligence in the race and his speed and sense of position in tight bunch sprints."
Meersman expressed his delight at continuing with team and looking forward to further success with his teammates and developing on performing at one-day events.
"Right from my first training with the team in winter of 2012 I immediately felt at ease, I felt really good in the group" Meersman said. "We have different nationalities but one common goal: To grow as a team. This is a real group where everyone looks out for the next guy. In my opinion this is really one of the team's strongest points. For the next two seasons I seek further personal growth both in terms of numbers and in quality of results. First, though, there is the second part of this season to face and I am off to a good start.
"In the next few months the team and I have agreed that I will concentrate especially on the one day races, on the end of season classics. I will not be riding in the Vuelta, but I plan on being ready even for a possible participation in a World Championship that seems to be suited to my skills."
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