The Wolfpack gets its first success of the season on home turf.
Tim Merlier added another victory in the Soudal Quick-Step colors, making it two consecutive wins at Nokere Koerse, the race held just a stone’s throw from the place he lives. Coming off the back of a solid outing at Paris-Nice, where he picked up a stage success, the Belgian Champion didn’t miss a beat in the pulsating finale of Wednesday’s race, powering to another clear victory after a mammoth lead-out of Bert Van Lerberghe.
The 76th edition of the Belgian one-day race took in twelve climbs and 25 kilometers of cobbles, the ingredients of an exciting and eventful day in Flanders. Soudal Quick-Step was again at the forefront, controlling the gap of the seven-man escapees and bringing back all the dangerous moves coming from the riders who bet against a bunch sprint on the Nokereberg.
The last of these attacks was nullified just 800 meters from the line by the sensational Van Lerberghe, who then delivered a tremendous pull on the short cobbled hill that left Tim Merlier perfectly placed to hit out with 300 meters to go. It was a truly stunning burst of speed that left his opponents fighting for the minor placings on the podium, as the 30-year-old was just untouchable on his way to the season’s fifth victory.
“This is my home race, so to win it for the second time feels great and makes me very proud. The race, and especially the finale, was hectic, with a lot of attacks, but the team did a great job the entire day. Bert was so strong that he still had enough to launch me after closing out that last dangerous attack. It’s difficult even to describe the amazing work he did in the closing kilometers. All I can say is that I am happy I could finish it off”, said the first reigning Belgian Champion to win Nokere Koerse.
Iljo Keisse was another member of the Soudal Quick-Step team with a big smile on his face Wednesday afternoon, after he guided the team to victory for the first time from the position of main sports director: “It feels good. We had a plan, simple on paper, which was to bring Tim at the finish in an ideal position, because we knew he was the fastest, but it was a bit stressful in the last kilometer. I want to congratulate all the guys for their job, and hopefully, we’ll continue on Friday with another good result.”
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