Meersman wins opening stage at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya

Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won the opening stage at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya from an elite 13-rider selection. Valerio Agnoli (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) rounded out the top three in the sprint to the finish in Calella.

On a day where it seemed likely the winner would emerge from a full-on field sprint finale, Team Sky had other plans and came to the fore on the day's final climb, the category 3-rated Alt de Collsacreu, whose summit was situated 18km from the finish. The elastic stretched on the ascent and ultimately snapped on the technical descent, with Sky's Bradley Wiggins setting a furious pace which ultimately drew out 12 other riders. Sky placed three riders in the escape, the most of any team, and kept the tempo high to ensure the peloton would not make contact.

By the time Koldo Fernandez (Garmin-Sharp) prevailed in the field sprint for 14th place, 28 seconds had passed since Meersman took stage honours.

Meersman's first victory of the 2013 season also earned the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider the first leader's jersey at the Spanish WorldTour event. With time bonuses factored in the 27-year-old Belgian leads Agnoli by four seconds and Valverde by six seconds on general classification.

The peloton was afforded a preview of the finale earlier in the stage and Meersman knew exactly what to do to vie for victory.

"During the race we passed through the finish line, so I knew the final climb and the descent," said Meersman. "I knew the descent was a technical one and I needed to stay near the front. I did a good job on the descent and then in the final, when I arrived at the sprint I was in the last position. I wanted no one to surprise me. So, I launched the sprint very, very early — several hundred metres from the finish. After that, I didn't think of anything but pulling and trying to do my best.

"This morning in our team briefing Rik Van Slycke said the day would either be for me or Andy Fenn," said Meersman. "So, it was my day and I am so happy."

The peloton enjoyed brilliant sunshine and blue skies on the first day of racing at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, quite a change of pace for the handful of riders who arrived at the start after contesting a frigid, miserable Milan-San Remo the day before. The first break formed early in the day with Cristiano Salerno (Cannondale) escaping the peloton 15km into the stage. The Italian was soon joined by Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge) and with the peloton not eager to chase the duo quickly found themselves more than eight minutes ahead of the field.

Salerno and Meier's lead maxed out at 8:40, 38km into the stage, but once the chase began in earnest the duo's advantage began to decrease on the rolling parcours. Omega Pharma-Quick Step was the first to commit riders to the pursuit and the Belgian ProTeam was eventually joined by Movistar and then Vacansoleil-DCM at the head of the peloton.

The break's lead was kept at a manageable five minutes but inside the final 50km their advantage began to evaporate. Salerno led Meier over the penultimate climb of Monstoriu Alt at 117.5km while Rafael Valls (Vacansoleil-DCM) reached the summit at the head of the peloton 3:10 in arrears.

Ten kilometres later Salerno and Meier's lead was cut to less than two minutes and on the slopes of the day's fifth and final categorised climb, the category 3 Alt de Collsacreu, they were absorbed back into the peloton.

Team Sky pushed the pace on the ascent with Lopez, Rigoberto Uran and Cataldo leading the peloton over the final KOM and continued to force the issue on the descent with reigning Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins prominent at the head of the race. Sky's efforts managed to force a 13-rider selection with Wiggins, David Lopez and Dario Cataldo all present from the British ProTeam. Many of the race's GC contenders marked the move with former Volta Ciclista a Catalunya champions Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) in the mix along with Meersman, Agnoli, Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Robert Gesink (Blanco), Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) and Jose Herrada (Movistar).

Sky kept the tempo high on the flat run-in to the finish with Wiggins leading out the sprint. Daniel Martin jumped in a bid for victory but Meersman's finishing kick was too strong in the closing metres, earning the Belgian his first victory since stage 4 of Paris-Nice more than a year ago.

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Full Results
1Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step3:55:56
2Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 1 - Cell 2
3Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 2 - Cell 2
4Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-SharpRow 3 - Cell 2
5Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 4 - Cell 2
6Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 5 - Cell 2
7Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling TeamRow 6 - Cell 2
8Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) KatushaRow 7 - Cell 2
9Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 8 - Cell 2
10David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Sky ProcyclingRow 9 - Cell 2
11Dario Cataldo (Ita) Sky ProcyclingRow 10 - Cell 2
12Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-MeridaRow 11 - Cell 2
13Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 12 - Cell 2
14Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Garmin-Sharp0:00:28
15Pim Ligthart (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 14 - Cell 2
16Moreno Hofland (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling TeamRow 15 - Cell 2
17Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick StepRow 16 - Cell 2
18Francois Parisien (Can) Team Argos-ShimanoRow 17 - Cell 2
19Julien Simon (Fra) SojasunRow 18 - Cell 2
20Stéphane Poulhies (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 19 - Cell 2
21Manuel Antonio Leal Cardoso (Por) Caja RuralRow 20 - Cell 2
22Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 21 - Cell 2
23Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 22 - Cell 2
24Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto BelisolRow 23 - Cell 2
25Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo-TinkoffRow 24 - Cell 2
26Matthew Busche (USA) RadioShack LeopardRow 25 - Cell 2
27Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 26 - Cell 2
28Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 27 - Cell 2
29Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 28 - Cell 2
30Mads Christensen (Den) Team Saxo-TinkoffRow 29 - Cell 2
31Christian Knees (Ger) Sky ProcyclingRow 30 - Cell 2
32Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Argos-ShimanoRow 31 - Cell 2
33Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 32 - Cell 2
34Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin-SharpRow 33 - Cell 2
35Ivan Velasco Murillo (Spa) Caja RuralRow 34 - Cell 2
36Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2R La MondialeRow 35 - Cell 2
37George Bennett (NZl) RadioShack LeopardRow 36 - Cell 2
38Albert Timmer (Ned) Team Argos-ShimanoRow 37 - Cell 2
39Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 38 - Cell 2
40Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-SharpRow 39 - Cell 2
41Egor Silin (Rus) Astana Pro TeamRow 40 - Cell 2
42Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro TeamRow 41 - Cell 2
43Robert Wagner (Ger) Blanco Pro Cycling TeamRow 42 - Cell 2
44Serge Pauwels (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick StepRow 43 - Cell 2
45Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2R La MondialeRow 44 - Cell 2
46Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 45 - Cell 2
47Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 46 - Cell 2
48Tiago Machado (Por) RadioShack LeopardRow 47 - Cell 2
49Jérémie Galland (Fra) SojasunRow 48 - Cell 2
50Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 49 - Cell 2
51Sam Bewley (NZl) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 50 - Cell 2
52Mikael Cherel (Fra) Ag2R La MondialeRow 51 - Cell 2
53Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 52 - Cell 2
54Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling TeamRow 53 - Cell 2
55Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 54 - Cell 2
56Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 55 - Cell 2
57Laurent Pichon (Fra) FDJRow 56 - Cell 2
58Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 57 - Cell 2
59Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2R La MondialeRow 58 - Cell 2
60Michal Golas (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick StepRow 59 - Cell 2
61Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack LeopardRow 60 - Cell 2
62Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 61 - Cell 2
63Cameron Wurf (Aus) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 62 - Cell 2
64Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling TeamRow 63 - Cell 2
65Thomas Peterson (USA) Team Argos-ShimanoRow 64 - Cell 2
66Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 65 - Cell 2
67Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack LeopardRow 66 - Cell 2
68Ivan Santaromita (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 67 - Cell 2
69Cédric Pineau (Fra) FDJRow 68 - Cell 2
70Jean-Lou Paiani (Fra) SojasunRow 69 - Cell 2
71Amets Txurruka (Spa) Caja RuralRow 70 - Cell 2
72Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJRow 71 - Cell 2
73Nelson Filipe Santos Simoes Oliveira (Por) RadioShack LeopardRow 72 - Cell 2
74Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick StepRow 73 - Cell 2
75Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) KatushaRow 74 - Cell 2
76Yoann Bagot (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 75 - Cell 2
77Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 76 - Cell 2
78Tristan Valentin (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 77 - Cell 2
79Fabrice Jeandesboz (Fra) SojasunRow 78 - Cell 2
80Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quick StepRow 79 - Cell 2
81Travis Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 80 - Cell 2
82Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-TinkoffRow 81 - Cell 2
83Evgeny Petrov (Rus) Team Saxo-TinkoffRow 82 - Cell 2
84Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 83 - Cell 2
85Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 84 - Cell 2
86Laurent Mangel (Fra) FDJRow 85 - Cell 2
87Eros Capecchi (Ita) Movistar TeamRow 86 - Cell 2
88Ricardo Mestre (Por) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 87 - Cell 2
89Rudy Molard (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 88 - Cell 2
90Francis De Greef (Bel) Lotto BelisolRow 89 - Cell 2
91Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky ProcyclingRow 90 - Cell 2
92Martijn Keizer (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 91 - Cell 2
93Thomas Rohregger (Aut) RadioShack LeopardRow 92 - Cell 2
94Marcos Garcia (Spa) Caja RuralRow 93 - Cell 2
95Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin-SharpRow 94 - Cell 2
96Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack LeopardRow 95 - Cell 2
97Simone Stortoni (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 96 - Cell 2
98Dmitry Kozontchuk (Rus) KatushaRow 97 - Cell 2
99Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar TeamRow 98 - Cell 2
100Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) KatushaRow 99 - Cell 2
101Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-SharpRow 100 - Cell 2
102Antonio Piedra Perez (Spa) Caja RuralRow 101 - Cell 2
103Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 102 - Cell 2
104Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing TeamRow 103 - Cell 2
105Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 104 - Cell 2
106Maxime Mederel (Fra) SojasunRow 105 - Cell 2
107Julien Berard (Fra) Ag2R La MondialeRow 106 - Cell 2
108Christophe Laborie (Fra) SojasunRow 107 - Cell 2
109Yannick Eijssen (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 108 - Cell 2
110David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-SharpRow 109 - Cell 2
111Danail Andonov Petrov (Bul) Caja RuralRow 110 - Cell 2
112Willem Wauters (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 111 - Cell 2
113Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2R La MondialeRow 112 - Cell 2
114Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo-TinkoffRow 113 - Cell 2
115Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 114 - Cell 2
116Simon Spilak (Slo) KatushaRow 115 - Cell 2
117Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra) Ag2R La MondialeRow 116 - Cell 2
118Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 117 - Cell 2
119Denis Menchov (Rus) KatushaRow 118 - Cell 2
120Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Movistar TeamRow 119 - Cell 2
121Karol Domagalski (Pol) Caja RuralRow 120 - Cell 2
122Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJRow 121 - Cell 2
123Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) KatushaRow 122 - Cell 2
124Stef Clement (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling TeamRow 123 - Cell 2
125Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJRow 124 - Cell 2
126Kristijan Durasek (Cro) Lampre-MeridaRow 125 - Cell 2
127Maciej Paterski (Pol) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 126 - Cell 2
128Yury Trofimov (Rus) KatushaRow 127 - Cell 2
129Blel Kadri (Fra) Ag2R La MondialeRow 128 - Cell 2
130David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caja RuralRow 129 - Cell 2
131Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJRow 130 - Cell 2
132Julien Vermote (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick StepRow 131 - Cell 2
133Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto BelisolRow 132 - Cell 2
134Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 133 - Cell 2
135Federico Canuti (Ita) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 134 - Cell 2
136Jetse Bol (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling TeamRow 135 - Cell 2
137Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 136 - Cell 2
138Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Lotto BelisolRow 137 - Cell 2
139Lawrence Warbasse (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 138 - Cell 2
140Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 139 - Cell 2
141Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 140 - Cell 2
142Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 141 - Cell 2
143Joshua Edmondson (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 142 - Cell 2
144Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-SharpRow 143 - Cell 2
145Jean-Marc Marino (Fra) SojasunRow 144 - Cell 2
146Brian Vandborg (Den) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 145 - Cell 2
147José Rujano Guillen (Ven) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 146 - Cell 2
148Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJRow 147 - Cell 2
149Stephen Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing TeamRow 148 - Cell 2
150Brian Bulgac (Ned) Lotto BelisolRow 149 - Cell 2
151Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Movistar TeamRow 150 - Cell 2
152Thomas Damuseau (Fra) Team Argos-ShimanoRow 151 - Cell 2
153Danny Pate (USA) Sky ProcyclingRow 152 - Cell 2
154Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Lotto Belisol0:01:15
155William Clarke (Aus) Team Argos-Shimano0:01:17
156Patrick Gretsch (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano0:02:32
157Brice Feillu (Fra) SojasunRow 156 - Cell 2
158Jonas Ahlstrand (Swe) Team Argos-Shimano0:02:35
159Alexsandr Dyachenko (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 158 - Cell 2
160Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Omega Pharma-Quick Step0:05:53
161Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 160 - Cell 2
162Christian Meier (Can) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 161 - Cell 2
163Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team Saxo-TinkoffRow 162 - Cell 2
164Matthew Lloyd (Aus) Lampre-MeridaRow 163 - Cell 2
165Tarik Chaoufi (Mar) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 164 - Cell 2
166Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-TinkoffRow 165 - Cell 2
167Jon Aberasturi Izaga (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 166 - Cell 2
168Cristiano Salerno (Ita) Cannondale Pro CyclingRow 167 - Cell 2
169Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto BelisolRow 168 - Cell 2
170Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Team Saxo-TinkoffRow 169 - Cell 2
171Joost Van Leijen (Ned) Lotto Belisol0:06:43
172Jack Bobridge (Aus) Blanco Pro Cycling Team0:08:43
173Allan Davis (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge0:16:14
174Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-MeridaRow 173 - Cell 2
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Mountain 1 - Alt de Collsacreu (Cat. 3) 15.9km
1Cristiano Salerno (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling6pts
2Christian Meier (Can) Orica-GreenEdge4Row 1 - Cell 3
3Amets Txurruka (Spa) Caja Rural2Row 2 - Cell 3
4Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ1Row 3 - Cell 3
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Mountain 2 - Alt de Montseny (Cat. 1) 42.8km
1Cristiano Salerno (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling16pts
2Christian Meier (Can) Orica-GreenEdge12Row 1 - Cell 3
3Francois Parisien (Can) Team Argos-Shimano10Row 2 - Cell 3
4Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Omega Pharma-Quick Step8Row 3 - Cell 3
5Julien Vermote (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step6Row 4 - Cell 3
6Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Movistar Team4Row 5 - Cell 3
7Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team3Row 6 - Cell 3
8Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Movistar Team2Row 7 - Cell 3
9Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team1Row 8 - Cell 3
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Mountain 3 - Alt de Collsacreu (Cat. 3) 64.7km
1Cristiano Salerno (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling6pts
2Christian Meier (Can) Orica-GreenEdge4Row 1 - Cell 3
3Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team2Row 2 - Cell 3
4Julien Vermote (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step1Row 3 - Cell 3
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Mountain 4 - Alt de Montsoriu (Cat. 3) 117.5km
1Cristiano Salerno (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling6pts
2Christian Meier (Can) Orica-GreenEdge4Row 1 - Cell 3
3Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team2Row 2 - Cell 3
4Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team1Row 3 - Cell 3
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Alt de Collsacreu (Cat. 3) 141.4km
1David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Sky Procycling6pts