Introducing Gianni Meersman, a Belgian neo pro on the Discovery
Channel Cycling Team, who won his first race as a professional at
Stage 3 at the 2007 Tour de Georgia – a stage that turned the
GC on its head.
by Lyne Lamoureux
convincingly winning Stage 3 in Chattanooga
c. Celia Cole
Gianni used fresh legs to sprint pass a group of eight riders with 700 meters to go to win Stage 3 of the 2007 Tour de Georgia. David Canada Gracia (Prodir-Saunier Duval) finished second and Meersman’s teammate Janez Brajkovic finished third in the stage.
Gianni, the youngest rider in this year’s field at 21 years old, was able to remain relatively fresh throughout the race despite being a part of a group of 13 riders that split away from the field early on.
The interview was conducted just
before the his convincing win on Stage 3, and when asked about his
win, Gianni replied: “it feels like a dream”.
Lyne: I read that you were contacted by Belgian ProTour teams
and yet you chose to join the American team Discovery channel. Can
you tell me what made you take this decision ?
Gianni: Yes, both Predictor-Lotto and Quick Step tried to
hire me. Dirk Demol gave me confidence when I was 18 years old and
called me sometimes he called me a couple of time in a week, he had
confidence in me, so I chose to come to Discovery.
Lyne: Tell me about your season before the Tour de Georgia.
Gianni: So far, this year I've ridden 5 Belgian races,
Gent-Wevelgem, E3 Prijs Harelbeke, Dwars van Vlanderen, Kuurne
Brussels Kuurne and Oomloop Het Volk and also Troffeo Mallorca. I was
sick and I didn't finish Gent-Wevelgem. The other races were okay and
I was always with the first group. I had to stay with Stijn Devolder
who was the best one of the team. There are always small roads, left
to right, more cobblestones, big differences from the roads here.
Here you have speed bumps.
Lyne: What do you prefer, one-day races or week long stage
Gianni: One day races are good but most of the times they
are 10 days or 2 weeks in between , sometimes 16 days also, and in
the shape goes... and you have to train a lot. Now with stage races
of 7 days is better for your condition.
Lyne: Is it difficult for you to be in a team with so many
nationalities? Anyone been any special help to you?
Gianni: It is a bit difficult, but not too bad, everybody
talks English and everybody is friendly to each other. Dirk Demol has helped a lot of
course and also Stijn Devolder – we share rooms together
sometimes at the races. I knew Stijn before I became a professional,
we did exercises together a long time ago, when I was an amateur.
Lyne: So far, has joining the Discovery Channel Cycling team
met your expectations?
Gianni: More than I expected. Everything is so good, in my
other team we have a couple of tshirts, simple things.... Now we have
everything... the bikes are good, everything, the mechanics, the
soigneurs, one line forwards... everybody working for the same goal.
It is much easier, everybody knows that to do and everyone does his
Lyne: This is your first time racing in the United States, did
your teammates tell you what to expect for Tour de Georgia?
Gianni: Well they told me it was a hard race, certainly the
stage the day after the time trial stage is hard. But we have a good
team so I think it will be okay, and I'm not worried. They told me
that they don't race the same way, they keep on attacking, I think
that is sometimes not so smart.
Lyne: So what is your strategy against these attacks?
Gianni: Just let them do and we'll see at the finish
(laughs) or before the finish.
Lyne: How's the jet lag, will it impact your race?
Gianni: Yesterday, it took 2 days traveling, I think it
took 36 hours from my home (about 15kms from Kortrijk) to the
hotel.... 36 hours. The jet lag is not too bad, maybe tomorrow it
will be hard, but the second day will be okay. It is only 6 hours
difference so not so much. Solvang (ed: Training Camp in January) was
9 hours and that was hard.
Lyne: What is your role for Georgia? What is your goal for this
Gianni: The first days, just stay on the front of the
peloton and help Levi or Tom, and then if they get the lead to help
them. If I can do my work for my team then I will be happy.
Lyne: What do you think is going to be the most difficult thing
for you this week?
Gianni: I think to control the race, the first few days we
take it easy. After the time trial, it will be even more important to
do, but we have a good team and we will be okay.
Lyne: What are your impressions about the Tour de Georgia so
Gianni: It is good, there are a lot of people here. The
continental teams want to prove and showcase themselves. It is a good
opportunity to prove themselves. I was surprised a little bit, it's
like really big, we even got a GPS! I've never had it before. I'd
love to come back and race, it is very big with all the press and a very good organization also. It is very nice.
Lyne: What is your schedule after Georgia?
Gianni: Sunday after (April 29th) I do a criterium, in Holland and
then maybe the 4 Jours de Dunkerque and then the Tour of Belgium.
Lyne: Which big race would you like to win? And why?
Gianni: In Belgium, it would be Liège - Bastogne – Liège.
Because not a whole lot of Belgium riders have won this race, it has
been a long time. And also of course, Amstel Gold race. In a couple
of years maybe.....
Lyne: Lastly, I heard that you are into clothing, have you gone
shopping yet? I heard the story about the jacket, are you wearing it
now? (Gianni bought a jacket last time in the United States and his girlfriend didn't like it)
Gianni: I wait for Belgium to go shopping again. (laughing)
I have a new girlfriend now and she likes the jacket, and now I can
Gianni is always happy to meet fans
Thank you Gianni for sharing your thoughts with us and
congratulations on winning Stage 3 at the 2007 Tour de Georgia.