Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team didn't just sit back and control the race for the 174.1km Stage 3 of Tour de Wallonie on Monday. With Gianni Meersman in yellow after two consecutive 2nd place finishes in bunch sprints, OPQS first kept the original breakaway from gaining too much of a gap — catching them within 10km to go in the stage — Zdenek Stybar then went on the attack after staying on the wheel of an attacking Martin Kohler (BMC Racing Team) with just a few kilometers remaining.
Stybar gained as much as an 11" gap on the field with Meersman waiting in case he was caught. This move forced the peloton to scramble so they could bring him back, as he could potentially win the stage solo. If the Czech Road Champion gained more time he could even keep the leader's jersey with the team.
Styby was caught with a few hundred meters to go, leaving it up to Meersman to sprint and defend his GC leadership from the bunch. Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) launched early and had a big enough gap to with the stage easily. However, Meersman put in a huge effort to get his third consecutive 2nd place at Tour de Wallonie and protect his yellow jersey. Meersman caught and passed several riders for the second step of the podium. Meersman, who also gained some seconds in an intermediate sprint during the race, increased his GC leadership to 11" due to bonus seconds at the finish line. Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing Team) was 3rd.
OPQS looks next to 174.9km Stage 4, from Herve to Waremme, on Tuesday.
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step never hesitated to keep fighting after losing Mark Cavendish following a Stage 1 crash at the Tour de France. The Belgian based cycling team with an international impact still managed to earn three victories, and also be protagonists in every stage. Stage 21 in Paris was no exception.
Mark Renshaw and Alessandro Petacchi finished 5th and 8th in the traditional bunch sprint finish, with Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) beating out Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) for the win of the 137.5km final stage. Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) was 3rd.
Vincenzo Nibali won the 101st edition of the Tour de France by 7 minutes and 37 seconds. Jan Bakelants was the top GC finisher for OPQS, in 24th place (+1:06:28).
Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) launched the first attack of the stage with 54km to go, but it was Richie Porte (Team Sky) — who attacked out of an original four-rider escape group — who had to be pulled back by the peloton with 7.4km to go just before the bell rung for the last lap. Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE) attacked out of the peloton in the final kilometers, but the peloton was simply too determined for the bunch sprint to give him room to stay away for long.
Giant-Shimano, Lotto-Belisol, Garmin-Sharp, Cannondale, and OPQS all battled on the front for position. Going into the final kilometer a bit of control was lost on the front, and it came down to Kristoff and Kittel for the victory.
The three stage wins for OPQS included Matteo Trentin winning Stage 7 by the depth of a tire, Tony Martin winning the first Tour de France road stage of his career solo in Stage 9, and the dominating ITT victory of Martin in Stage 20. He won by more than a minute and a half.more information
OPQS rider Gianni Meersman finished 2nd for the second day in a row. In the second stage of the Tour de Wallonie he was beaten by Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek), but that was enough to take over the overall lead.
Just as in the first stage the day`s breakaway animated a large part of the stage. The opened up a maximum lead of 7 minutes and 45 seconds. The peloton didn`t panic and closed the gap slowly. With 18 kilometres to go all was back together just before the final intermediate sprint, which was won by Meersman.
In the final sprint Nizzolo outsprinted Meersman, who finished 2nd just like yesterday. After the stage Meersman was rewarded with the yellow leaders jersey.more information
OPQS rider Gianni Meersman opened the Tour de Wallonie with a 2nd place. During the bunch sprint of the first stage he was beaten by Belgian champion Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Belisol).
The stage from Frasnes-lez-Anvaing to Tournai (147,9 km) was animated by a group of 3 riders. They attacked after 15 kilometres and got a maximum advantage of almost 8 minutes. At 22 kilometres from the finish the escapees were reeled in however.
In the final kilometres OPQS was at the front of the bunch with Wanty-Groupe Gobert and Lotto-Belisol to prepare the bunch sprint. Debusschere just outsprinted OPQS rider Meersman. Juan José Lobato (Movistar) finished 3rd.more information
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Tony Martin confirmed himself to be one of the biggest protagonists of the 2014 Tour de France. The three-time UCI World TT Champion won his second stage of the 101st edition on Saturday, smashing the 54km time trial with his 58-tooth chainring for a finishing time of 1 hour, six minutes and 21 seconds (48.8km/h). No rider came within a minute and a half of the German powerhouse.
"The team really did a great job for me in this time trial," Martin said. "They paid attention to all the details. I had a clear idea of the parcours in advance. Then I went this morning to see the roads and I was really happy. It wasn't really flat, but also not super hilly. There were always parts with two or three percent gradients, with uphills and downhills. You could go with a big gear, such as my 58-tooth chainring. It was just perfect for me. We discussed with Specialized before what wheels and tires we would ride, we found the right setup, and I had a good feeling the whole race on my Shiv. We used the Turbo tires that are super smooth on the road. The whole time I was motivated. To have this kind of a perfect race at the Tour de France time trial, and get my second stage win, it's really unbelievable for me and I'm very proud."
Martin blazed through the entire course, setting the fastest times at each checkpoint. He finished 1'39" faster than Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) and 1'47" faster than Jan Barta (Team NetApp-Endura).
"My bike that I used today, with a new graphic, is super fast," Martin said. "Specialized wanted to make a nice special graphic of the Shiv for this stage. We have worked together with Specialized for a long time on finding a time trial bike that could show my power and suit my skills. This Shiv is the product of a lot of collaboration, but they also added a special flare with the graphic today. I have to thank them for making this kind of bike for me. It's a dream to see a Shiv tailored specifically for myself. It was really cool that they put the Bull on the frame for my Taurus Zodiac sign too. It was a beautiful looking bike but also really great with its performance."
Martin also won Stage 9 — the first Tour de France road stage win of his career — solo.
"The victory today was another great Tour de France time trial victory added to my palmares," Martin said. "I already won two time trials, so I am proud to now have a third win. But, I have to say, to win a road race and knowing 5 kilometers before the finish you would already win, it's an unbelievable feeling. You can celebrate with your Sport Director as I did with Davide Bramati. He supported me the whole stage and really kept my morale high. Those 5 kilometers were special for me and the team as we shared in the joy. So I can't say which win is more special, but how I felt when I won Stage 9 is for sure a unique experience I will remember for a long time."
OPQS now has 48 total wins (46 road) in 2014.
"We were all really sad when we learned Mark Cavendish couldn't continue the Tour de France after the first stage," Martin said. "In the beginning we were really down, but already in the second stage we continued fighting. We always showed we're a strong team. We wanted to fight for Cav and win stages. We were able to win three stages with a great team spirit. I'm really proud of how we stayed together and kept fighting. Now we all can be really happy and can enjoy one or two glasses of champagne tonight. We will celebrate and then look to Paris tomorrow with big motivation."more information