After years of hitting the goalposts in the Grand Tours, Belgium's Gianni Meersman has managed to score twice in four days in the 2016 Vuelta a España, racking up a second victory in Lugo after a crash-marred finale.
"To be honest I thought I was already dreaming after the first stage win, then with a second stage in four days, that was just incredible," the Etixx-QuickStep rider said later. "
"I really want to thank the team for their confidence in me, you saw the way [Zdenek] Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) led me out there, it was amazing."
"To be honest on the harder days so far in the Vuelta, I opted to take it easy so I would be strong enough for the sprint stages, but I think with two out of two wins, my strategy was the good one."
Meersman said he had not seen the big crash behind him in the final kilometre, "I was so focussed, I didn't realise it had happened." But he was adamant that the tumultuous finale nor the lack of sprinters should not detract from his performance. "You saw there were guys like [Philippe] Gilbert (BMC) up there, some really big names. If I can beat them, I think I'm doing ok."
Meersman's latest successes would, he believed, both improve his chances of riding the European Championships - "the national coach makes the selection soon, and I hope to be in it" - and also for his contract for 2017.
"There's a French team interested, we will see what happens," Meersman argued. "I haven't spoken to my manager for a while, he wanted me to focus on the race, maybe we'll talk again tomorrow."
The first Belgian to claim two stages in the same Vuelta since 2012, Meersman now has taken hold of the points jersey too, and with two more rolling stages to come, there's every chance he could defend it at least until Saturday's first major incursion into the mountains.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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