Two Soudal Quick-Step riders in the top three Sunday afternoon.
Tim Merlier made sure Soudal Quick-Step kept on winning even in the off-season, by finishing first in the demanding De Panne Beach Race. One of the most successful riders of 2023, the Belgian has now triumphed in three different disciplines since the beginning of the year: cyclo-cross, road, and now mountain bike.
The race, which was over 50 kilometers in length and featured plenty of obstacles in the menu – including sand dunes and some stiff headwind – had three of our guys at the start: the two-time Belgian Champion, Tim “El Tractor” Declercq and Jordi Warlop. As expected, the course was a selective one, leaving only a handful of riders in contention in the final kilometers, and Merlier was not just very strong, but also attentive all the time, marking all the important moves.
It was on the final lap that Tim made his move out of an eight-man group just as they tackled a hard sand dune, rounding out the final corner in first position and taking the win Sunday afternoon. The 30-year-old was joined on the podium by Declercq, who concluded the De Panne Beach Race in a solid third place.
“I felt good today, but it was a bit frustrating in the beginning, as my cyclo-cross experience didn’t help to make it over a quite demanding dune. But then things became more straightforward, and when our group rode away, we were well represented there with three guys. It was a perfect situation for us, one which allowed me to save some energy.”
“I also knew the penultimate dune would be important and that is where I opened a gap of around 50 meters and kept pushing and maintaining my advantage all the way to the finish. Winning this race and being on the podium with a teammate is a great feeling and made me very happy”, Merlier explained after taking the trophy.
Photo credit: ©Walter Carels