4 Jours de Dunkerque / Grand Prix des Hauts de France
Stage 1: Dunkerque - Abbeville
France Tuesday 16 May 2023 196.6 km
Merlier boxed in on Dunkerque opener
Tim Merlier returned to racing for the first time since last month’s Paris-Roubaix, and he showed his strong legs despite not finishing in the top three on a day marred by crashes. Taking place over an undulating course, the stage that concluded in Abbeville was animated by a five-man breakaway, caught with only seven kilometers to go, in part thanks to the fantastic effort put in by the Soudal Quick-Step boys.
Unfortunately, numerous crashes happened in the closing kilometers, disrupting the sprint trains, among those affected being also Tim Merlier. Going under the flamme rouge, the Belgian Champion found himself alone, after his teammates were caught behind those pile-ups, and boxed in, making it impossible for him to find a space to launch his sprint. Even in these conditions, Tim showed his incredible speed, taking fourth place behind winner Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma).
“We knew that we had to be at the front, as crashes were a possibility, and the guys did a perfect job keeping me in a good position. But when the crashes began coming, we lost one another, Bert being among those held up. Due to all this, I was quite far when the sprint started, but being able to finish just outside the podium in these conditions gives me a lot of confidence for the next stages”, Tim explained.
Photo credit: ©Luc Claessen / Getty Images