Belgian Gianni Meersman has won his second stage of the Tour of Romandy whilst Chris Froome has held onto the yellow leader’s jersey.
Meersman was the best of a group sprint claiming the third stage in Payerne from Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) and Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) after a sound lead-out from the remainder of his Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammates.
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The 27-year old, who won a bunch sprint in Renens on Wednesday, has catapulted to third overall and is now nine seconds adrift of Froome (Sky) ahead of tomorrow’s queen stage and then Sunday’s 18.7km individual time trial in Geneva.
“I was disappointed about my sprint yesterday and wanted to make it up today for everybody – my teammates especially, ” Meersman said. “They did a great job today, did a perfect lead-out and I’m really happy with my second victory.”
Froome finished safely in the main group to maintain his six second advantage, over Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky, with teammate Richie Porte 15 seconds back in fourth.
A six-man break established early in the 181km return race that featured four categorised climbs. Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Steve Kruijswijk (Blanco), Julien Berard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Kevin Reza, (Europcar), Matthias Brandle (IAM) and Peio Bilbao (Euskaltel Euskadi) comprised the early break that was caught with some 30km remaining.
Sky as well as Movistar and Blanco helped control the pace for much of the race.
Adriano Malori (Lampre-Merida) made a move with seven kilometres remaining with Pierre Rollands (Europcar) one of a few that tried to bridge the gap. Omega Pharma-Quick Step began to mobilise putting three men on the front within the final three kilometres as the chasers were caught. Malori held a slender seven second advantage until he too was reeled in 400m from the line.
“It maybe looked easy in the final but it was not so easy,” Meersman said. “With two kilometres to go I knew the guys had something left in the tank to catch Malori ahead. Tony Martin took me to the last 600 or 700m. It was perfect.
“As for tomorrow, I’m going to help the boys now. Before coming here I had three stages in mind. The first stage I won, then yesterday I was third, and today I won again. So, I am happy.”
None of the marquee sprinters in the race, including Meersman’s teammate Mark Cavendish, were in the mix at the finish. Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida), who won stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia last year besting Francesco Chicchi, Tomas Vaitkus and Cavendish in a bunch sprint, was an exception placing eighth. The sprinter was third to Meersman on stage one. Romandie is an important race for some riders preparing for the Giro.
Britain’s Adam Blythe (BMC) was one of a handful that abandoned the third stage.
The tour continues tomorrow with a 188.5km stage from Marly to Les Diablerets.
Tour of Romandy 2013, stage three: Payerne to Payerne, 181km
1. Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) in 4-19-03
2. Francesco Gavazzi (Astana)
3. Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge)
4. Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano)
5. Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
6. Danilo Wyss (BMC)
7. Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale)
8. Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida)
9. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Argos-Shimano)
10. Xavier Florencio Cabre (Katusha)
Overall classification after stage three
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 13-53-16
2. Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) at 6secs
3. Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) at 9secs
4. Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack Leopard) at 13secs
5. Richie Porte (Sky) at 15secs
6. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Movistar) at 16secs
7. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) at 17secs
8. Stef Clement (Blanco)
9. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
10. Thomas Danielson (Garmin-Sharp)