Tim Merlier took a decisive sprint victory for Alpecin-Deceuninck on home territory at the Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen race, beating Mark Cavendish (Quickstep-AlphaVinyl) into second place and Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange–Jayco) into third.
The race, which took place over a virtually pan-flat 174km course, started and finished at Arendonk on the Belgian-Dutch border and promised to be a race for the sprinters from the outset.
A small breakaway containing seven riders including Lotto Soudal’s Sébastien Grignard stretched to a shallow lead of just under two minutes but were pulled in within the final 10km.
The approach to the finish saw an early attack from Mark Cavendish from around 200m out, out of the final bend before the finishing straight.
Alpecin-Deceuninck had placed Merlier on Cavendish’s wheel ahead of the bend, and moved out to ride past him in the final metres, while Dylan Groenewegen sat just behind the two but was unable to overpower them.
"It was a very hectic end here," Tim Merlier explained after the race finish. "We knew that in the last kilometre there were still a few gentle bends and the last straight line was very close to the finish.”
"I was brought up by my teammates and then jumped to Mark Cavendish’s wheel, who had gone early. I managed to catch him."Merlier has won five races this season, including the Belgian road race national title, though had a disappointing Vuelta a España , where he failed to take a stage win and aired his frustration at sprint squads failing to chase […]