Meersman chasing stage wins at Vuelta

Lotto Belisol's Gianni Meersman added to his considerable podium haul for the 2011 season when he finished third at the Clasica San Sebastian behind winner Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge).

Meersman and teammate Jelle Vanendert were in the pursuing group that caught the escapees at 9 kilometers before the finish. Vanendert worked to keep Meersman in contention as Sánchez broke away from the bunch, finishing seven seconds ahead. It was the eighth time that Meersman has finished in the top three this year.

"I'm satisfied with my third place," said Meersman. "If you had asked me before the race I would have signed for it. The last three kilometers I saw that Luis León could keep his lead and that it would be pretty difficult to be able to sprint for the victory, then I wanted to do everything to finish second. I had to start pretty early, only Simon Gerrans could pass me.

"The beginning of the race wasn't very tough; it was waiting for the first ascent of the Jaizkibel at 150 kilometers of the end," the Belgian continued. "I was feeling pretty well at that point. The second time I arrived at the top about 20 seconds behind the first group and I could close the gap in the descent. But I didn't feel fantastic at that moment. During the last ascent, at 15 kilometers before the finish, it suddenly went better and I reached the top with the better riders. Then I thought I could sprint to a beautiful result. I'm happy with the podium in this WorldTour race."

The 26-year-old will make his third appearance at the Vuelta a España this weekend, with Jurgen Van Den Broeck leading the Lotto Belisol team.

"Saturday I'll start in the Vuelta," Meersman said. "When we have received the road book I'll look for the stages are rather steep in the last two or three kilometers. There will be two or three stages that will appeal to me and where I will go for the victory."


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