Gianni Meersman leaves Lotto-Belisol over WorldTour uncertainty
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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gianni Meersman leaves Lotto-Belisol over WorldTour uncertainty

by Ben Atkins at 11:41 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
26-year-old quits after one injury-hit year at Belgian team

gianni meersmanGianni Meersman has decided to leave Lotto-Belisol after just one year, the Belgian team has announced. Despite the 26-year-old having an ongoing deal with the team, he has made use of the fact that it is still not certain to be awarded a place in the 2013 International Cycling Union (UCI) WorldTour to break his contract.

Meersman joined Lotto-Belisol at the beginning of 2012, after spending four years with FDJ. He had reportedly already agreed terms with Leopard Trek but, as the Luxembourg team merged with RadioShack at the end of last year, he opted for the Belgian team instead.

His season began well, with stage victories in the Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice, but a fractured wrist in the Giro d’Italia saw many of Meersman’s early summer plans evaporate. A strong second half to the season saw him take second overall in the Tour de Wallonie - just one second behind RadioShack-Nissan’s Giacomo Nizzolo - and third in the Clásica San Sebastián.

Several strong placings in the Vuelta a España saw Meersman earn a place in Belgium’s World championships team in Limburg, Netherlands, where he played a big part in Philippe Gilbert’s victory.

Despite winning the 2011 WorldTour, through the now-departed Gilbert, and finishing eleventh in the 2012 classification, Lotto-Belisol was only ranked 17th in the UCI’s sporting criterion for the awarding of WorldTour places in 2013. 70 of the team’s 625 points were earned by Meersman but, since the UCI Sporting criterion has already been calculated, he will not take them with him wherever he goes.

Despite this - and with Europcar’s decision to stay at Professional Continental level for another year meaning that there are just four teams chasing what will likely be three places - Lotto-Belisol is confident about taking its place at cycling’s top table again, once the UCI has evaluated the ethical, financial and administrative criteria.

“Lotto-Belisol has fulfilled all the conditions to get the WorldTour licence and expects to get it,” says the team’s statement.

“Of course Lotto Belisol regrets the departure of a rider like Gianni Meersman, but the team wants and needs to consider its financial possibilities and restrictions, that’s why there possibly will be room for new talent,” it continues. “Lotto Belisol wishes Gianni Meersman all the best in the further development of his career.”

Meersman himself has yet to make a statement on his departure, with his destination team yet to be announced.

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