Meersman doubles up with stage five victory


Gianni Meersman profited from a strong Etixx - Quick Step display to take his second stage win of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana on Wednesday.

Meersman claimed victory on Sunday in Baiona, and he was given the perfect lead out by Zdenek Stybar to repeat the feat on stage five in a bunch sprint.

The Belgian held on under pressure to cross the line first and claim the second Grand Tour stage win of his career, and Etixx's seventh of 2016.

General classification leader Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing) enjoyed a fairly comfortable day until a late crash in front of him, the Colombian held up and finishing just under a minute behind.

That would have seen Alejandro Valverde in red, but the race commissaires ruled the gaps caused by the crash should be expunged, leaving Atapuma at the top.

Tiago Machado (Katusha) and Julien Morice (Direct Energie) made all the early running on a predominantly flat stage from Viveiro to Lugo, and together they opened up a five-minute advantage.

While the peloton kept their distance the breakaway duo continued to push, but they were unable to extend their lead, and after 100km of racing Morice was dropped, leaving Machado out on his own.

The 30-year-old was able to take the only sprint and mountain points on the day, Machado well ahead as he ascended the day's only climb up Puerto de Marco de Alvare.

Any thoughts he had of turning his early break into a stage win began to ebb away, though, as the peloton upped the pace, Etixx - Quick Step and Giant - Alpecin leading the chase.

Eventually with 14.5km left he was swallowed up by the group and jostling began ahead of the expected sprint finish in Lugo.

Cannondale - Drapac's Simon Clarke and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) tried to make breaks for the line but both were pegged back, handing Meersman his chance.

He did not let a crash in the leading riders - including Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL - Jumbo) - in the final kilometre distract him as he lunged for the line to continue his impressive start.