Our rider became the first Belgian in seven years to top the general classification at the Spanish race.
Five men – Jesper Asselman (Roompot Oranje), Jacques Janse van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Marino Kobayashi (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Luis Mas (Caja Rural) and Amets Txurruka (Orica-BikeExchange) – booked a place in the escape on stage 4 of Vuelta a Burgos (Aranda de Duero – Lerma, 145 km), but their four-minute advantage was kept in check throughout the day, before the peloton decided to ride full gas and shut down this move once the last classified climb was left behind.
With ten kilometers remaining, Katusha tried to take advantage of the crosswinds and split the peloton, which they did, but only briefly, as the riders who were distanced rejoined the leaders just before the final kilometer of the stage. The uphill cobbled drag to Lerma tested the pack and created some gaps, with many riders having a tough time in keeping the speed pushed by the teams at the front. The high tempo made attacks impossible, so the stage eventually finished in a reduced sprint, won by Nathan Haas (Dimension Data), ahead of Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC) and Patrick Bevin (Cannondale-Drapac).
On the 300-m long climb which averaged 6%, Gianni Meersman bagged another individual top 10 – his third of this edition – and garnered a trip to the podium, where he was rewarded for his consistency and grit with the leader's jersey. Part of the small group which came home with a three-second advantage over the bunch, Gianni became the first Belgian rider since 2009 to climb to first spot in the Vuelta a Burgos GC.
"The last 20 kilometers were nervous, as we had echelons and at one point only 25 guys were left at the front. A group bridged across in the last kilometers and it all became hectic, and this made it impossible to hold onto your position. I came sixth and thanks to that gap I took the leader's jersey at the end of the day. This makes up a little bit for the disappointment of not getting a stage win", said Gianni Meersman, who is joined in the top 10 by three Etixx – Quick-Step teammates: Gianluca Brambilla, David De La Cruz and Pieter Serry.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele