Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race: Meersman Outkicks the Break!
The 174km Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race victory of Gianni Meersman was a combination of masterful tactics and a fantastic sprint by the Belgian rider in the one-day race in Geelong on Sunday.
Meersman won out of a nine rider breakaway, which came together with a little less than 10km to go after four riders were up the road with a gap. David De La Cruz was there with his teammate, and worked hard at the front for Meersman all the way until the final few kilometers. When the sprint out of the lead group began, there was a large chase group a little less than 10 seconds behind. But the breakaway had enough of a gap to decide the race. Meersman remained tucked in the middle of the group, waiting for the right moment to launch his own sprint. He timed his jump perfectly. Meersman, known for his prowess in small group sprints, outkicked the group on the right side and was able to cross the line ahead of Simon Clarke (Orice-GreenEDGE) and Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin) for the third overall victory (2nd road) of Etixx - Quick-Step in 2015.
Meersman also took home the red (sprint) jersey.
Pieter Serry was a member of a breakaway that was caught with a little less than 13km to go, but riders out of his lead group were part of the breakaway that decided the stage. Earlier, Maxime Bouet was in a breakaway that grew to about seven riders before it was caught with 26km to go. Bouet managed to win the 2nd and 3rd KOM before the group was brought back, which earned him the KOM jersey.
"I'm really happy with this victory," Meersman said. "As a group we've already been in Australia, between racing and training, for four weeks. At Tour Down Under I had one stage where I was in the perfect position at 100 meters to go, but I didn't have the legs yet. Then we came to Geelong, did a few days of hard training, and followed that with a few days where it was really easy before this race. This plan of training paid off. I felt good in this race and everybody on the team felt good after all the hard work we did to prepare. My team trusted me and had confidence in me and that meant a lot to me mentally as well. On the last lap of the circuit, the first climb, which was the really steep one, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) went. I then gave everything I had to be in the select group that was coming together to decide the race. I made it along with my teammate David De La Cruz. David, once he saw me there, went full gas for me on the front. He did a great job keeping everything together until the last climb, and then it was up to me to finish the job.
"As for the sprint, Haas was with us and I knew he was one of the fastest guys in the group," Meersman continued. "I was in his wheel. When he launched his sprint I waited until about 150 meters to try and pass him. It worked out perfectly. I'm proud to get my first win of the season already in February. To be honest last year I won at just my third race of the year. I don't know why, but it seems the beginning of the year I have a knack for getting a win. It's important motivation not just for me, but for my team. We already have two victories on the road. I am proud to be the winner of the inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race, and I want to thank all my teammates for all the work they did today that put me in the position to win. I also want to wish Cadel Evans the best in his retirement after a great career. Now the riders from Etixx - Quick-Step, who spent the past month in Australia, go back to Europe with great morale."