Belgian neo-pro Jef Van Meirhaeghe wasted no time in getting involved in the action in his first race at elite level: the Topsport-Vlaanderen rider got in the breakaway every day at the Tour of Oman.
Van Meirhaeghe progressed into the elite ranks with a promising-looking palmarès: he won the Tour of Flanders junior race in 2010 and last year’s Belgian under-23 road race title.
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The 23-year-old claimed the combativity classification in Oman, although he admitted he hadn’t planned his 100 per cent appearance record in advance.
“A lot of guys have probably done this before, but I haven’t.” he said of his feat. “It wasn’t planned, I don’t think you can plan things like this.
“It was planned on the first stage, yes, as I wanted to take the young rider’s jersey with the time bonuses. That didn’t work out and I was disappointed.
“On the second day, I went in the break with my team-mate Preben van Hecke, and he helped me get the most aggressive rider’s jersey.
“The day after, I was planning on going for the first 34 kilometres, up to the stage’s first sprint, but I didn’t really feel like dropping back after we passed that.
“Yesterday was a rest day [because the stage was neutralised] – I was afraid about finishing outside the time limit yesterday after it was shortened. If we had raced, riders would have gone hard for the full 90 kilometres, which makes for a hard time limit.”
Van Meirhaeghe ended the week with his best result: he placed third on this afternoon’s sixth stage after being part of the day’s successful four-man break.
He crossed the line behind Matthias Brändle (IAM) and Iljo Keisse (Etixx-Quick Step), but ahead of Sky’s Danny Pate.
He said: “I’m happy with third, it’s a good way to start my pro career.
“When Iljo started the move, I wasn’t in his wheels, so it was hard for me [to get across]. Matthias and Danny came into the group and they were really going hard.
“I didn’t do as much work as they did, as my legs hurt almost immediately after the start.”
And we don’t need to guess why that was the case.