Sunday brings another rendez-vous with the pavé (and plugstreets, for that matter), in Gent-Wevelgem. On paper at least, the course favours the sprinters, although recent editions have shown that a powerful acceleration the last time up the Kemmelberg – the steep climb which has become synonymous to the race – is enough to make an important selection.
Merlier fights on in attritional Gent-Wevelgem
This year’s Gent-Wevelgem was more about surviving the lashing rain and cold temperatures that altered the script of the race with more than 100 kilometers to go. That was when the first cracks in the peloton began appearing, as more and more riders got dropped. A forcing on the Kemmelberg left only 30-odd riders in the front, but the peloton – led by Kasper Asgreen and Yves Lampaert – pulled hard to come back and keep Tim Merlier in contention.
When two riders got away on the second ascent of the Kemmelberg, opening a considerable margin on the field, the Belgian Champion was among those who impressed on the steep gradients, laying down some serious watts to book a place in the chasing group. Tim didn’t stop there, attacking on the flat several times, and even though that move didn’t succeed, he remained active, contributing to the chase and coming home in 14th place.
“Tim did a very good race in some brutal weather conditions, showing how strong he is in these kinds of races. Overall, things didn’t go as we wanted, but we’ll draw a line only after our last cobbled Classics, Paris-Roubaix. Now we need to get the team as fresh as possible and fight in each race”, said Soudal Quick-Step sports director Tom Steels.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images