Our squad racked up another success this week, after a great team effort.
Tim Merlier made it four consecutive Soudal Quick-Step victories in Okolo Slovenska, cruising to another dominant success on the penultimate stage, which initially looked to be favouring the attackers.
Following a furious start, a five-man breakaway was established, but Tim Declercq and Josef Cerny kept their gap in check, and by the time the peloton arrived on the early slopes of the final classified climb, the quintet were almost caught. Trying to put pressure on yellow jersey Rémi Cavagna, several riders made a move on the steepest part of the ascent, which split the bunch in three groups. Merlier found himself among those in trouble, but with the help of his teammates, he closed down the gap on the descent and rejoined the peloton as the road flattened.
Going into the last kilometers, the Soudal Quick-Step train moved again to the front, driving a tempo that stretched out the bunch and keeping the two-time Belgian Champion in an excellent position. So powerful was the lead-out of Kasper Asgreen, that Tim had to kick out with only 100 meters to go, this short but strong acceleration being enough for his second victory in Slovakia.
“I am happy, especially as I didn’t feel well in the first part of the stage and you could see that when I lost contact on the climb, but I did my best to come back and I’m happy things turned out like this despite everything. I am lucky to have such a strong team around me; they kept me in front, then Kasper made sure I entered second in the last corner with 200 meters to go, and all I had to do was to finish it off. I am proud I could contribute with another victory to Soudal Quick-Step’s incredible tally this season and that I could do that in front of our sponsors Janom, who watched the stage”, Tim said after his 11th win of the year.
Photo credit: ©Jan Melicher