Meersman sprints to grab Romandie first stage victory

STEP IT UP::Race leader Chris Froome still hopes to win the five-stage race, which ends on Sunday, as he steps up preparations for the Tour de France

AFP, LAUSANNE, Switzerland

Fri, Apr 26, 2013 - Page 18

Belgium’s Gianni Meersman, of the Omega Pharma team, won the first stage of the Tour of Romandie on Wednesday, while Britain’s race favorite 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,” 27-year-old Meersman said.

“It was especially difficult in the final 500m, 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.

Froome holds on to the overall lead after winning Tuesday’s prologue.

Yesterday’s second stage was 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 teammate Bradley Wiggins last year went on to win the Tour de France.