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Meersman sprints to victory in 2nd stage of Spanish Vuelta

The Associated Press BAIONA, Spain (AP) — Belgium’s Gianni Meersman beat a pack of sprinters to claim the Spanish Vuelta’s second stage on Sunday for his first win at a grand tour.

The 30-year-old Meersman was launched by his Etixx-Quick Step team in the final meters and stayed in front of a huge group to win the relatively flat 160.8-kilometer ride from Ourense to Baiona in 4 hours, 16 minutes, 39 seconds.

Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski took the leader’s red jersey from Sky teammate Peter Kennaugh for Monday’s mountain stage.

Chris Froome, also of Sky, and Movistar rivals Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde remained on the same time with Kwiatkowski.

Three-time Vuelta winner Alberto Contador stayed 52 seconds back after his Tinkoff team struggled through the opening stage’s time trial, which was won by Sky.

Meersman said that he told his wife and family to be sure to watch Sunday’s stage on television because his team had selected it for him to go for the win.

“She was crying and they were yelling at the TV,” Meersman said after talking to his wife by telephone. “Today was the big goal for me. I was planning for this stage, I had it in my mind. I was so many times second and third, but my team really trusted me.”

On Monday, riders face a 170-kilometer route along the Atlantic coast starting in Marin. A flat first half is followed by three climbs finishing at the Mirador de Ezaro summit.

The 21-stage race ends in Madrid on Sept. 11.

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