The Belgian Champion is the first leader of the race after his spectacular stage 1 victory.
Tim Merlier won on the opening day of a stage race for the third time this season. After his successful outings with Soudal Quick-Step at the Tour of Oman and the UAE Tour in February, the 30-year-old repeated the feat also in Paris-Nice, at his debut here.
The Wolfpack’s most successful rider so far this season, Tim benefited from another outstanding job from his teammates, who not only controlled the early breakaway, but neutralized two dangerous attacks in the last hour of the race, the last of which was with just three kilometers to go. Kasper Asgreen and Mauro Schmid then stretched out the peloton before French Champion Florian Sénéchal picked up the pace, drilling it at the front until 300 meters to go.
Just like in the Middle East, Tim remained calm and kicked out 200 meters from the line, bursting clear of his opponents and scoring his fourth victory of the year with another hugely impressive sprint. The win in La Verrière came along with two visits to the podium for Tim, who got in possession of the yellow and green jersey.
“Today was a hard and nervous day, but the guys worked hard and believed in me, and that added to my motivation. I am twice happy: because I could repay them with this win and because I received that small plush lion, which I will give to my son when I am back home.”
“The boys were flawless today, the way they controlled everything on this tricky parcours was just wow. Tim brought back the escapees, Kasper did a really long pull in the closing kilometers, then Florian piloted me in the finale. I was well placed in the last two corners, and from that moment on it was just about waiting for the perfect moment. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be part of this amazing squad. To win at my debut here feels incredible”, said Tim, who became the first reigning Belgian Champion since Tom Steels – our sports director at the race – in 1999 to come out on top in a Paris-Nice road stage.
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