Belgium’s Gianni Meersman, of the Omega Pharma team, won the first stage of the Tour of Romandie on Wednesday, but Britain’s race favourite Chris Froome remained in the overall lead. Meersman won the 176km stage between Saint-Maurice and Renens, in the Lausanne suburbs, in a sprint finish from Italy’s Giacomo Nizzolo and Roberto Ferrari.
“It was a difficult day but the team did excellent work,” said 27-year-old Meersman. “It was especially difficult in the final 500 meters, but I rediscovered my good legs and they got me the victory,” added Meersman, who came into the race in form having won two stages on last month’s Tour of Catalonia. “The goal today, if Mark Cavendish was still there after the last climb, was to go for him. If not, it would be a final for me. Unfortunately Mark had a mechanical and at that point we went for me. I was a little bit closed at 400 meters to go, but I managed to stay in the front. Peter Velits brought me to the wheel of Matthew Goss (Orica Green-EDGE) but when I saw the possibility to pass in the chaotic sprint I didn’t wait. I decided to go by myself and not to wait for someone else to launch. I did my sprint and if they passed me, no problem, but if not I could win. I’m in good condition if I can win a sprint like that, against riders such as Goss and others. My goal is to possibly go for another stage tomorrow or the day after. You never know.”
Froome holds on to the overall lead after winning Tuesday’s prologue. Thursday’s second stage will be a 190.3km ride north from Prilly to Granges. Froome is hoping to win the five-stage race, which concludes on Sunday, as he steps up his preparations for this summer’s Tour de France. The two previous winners of this race, Australia’s Cadel Evans (2011) and Froome’s Sky team-mate Bradley Wiggins last year went on to win the Tour de France.