Merlier celebrates for the first time in Schoten

Merlier celebrates for the first time in Schoten

Road  03/04/2024

Former Belgian champion Merlier can add the Scheldeprijs to his list of achievements. In the classic sprint on the Churchilllaan, he made it ahead of Jasper Philipsen and Dylan Groenewegen.

Terneuzen was again the setting for the start of the men’s race. At 13:00, the peloton set off for a ride of 205 km. Just before the Westerschelde tunnel, the flag went up. On the other side of the tunnel, the peloton began its journey through Zeeland and the battle with the wind.

After about 15 km of racing, the early breakaway was established: Slock (Lotto Dstny), Arnes (Uno-X Mobility), Bozzola (Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team), Dissel (Beat Cycling Club) and Strand (Tarteletto-Isorex). Shortly after this breakaway was established, one of the favourites had to abandon the race. Thijssen (Intermarché-Wanty) had to give up after a crash.

At 180 km, the crosswinds alarm went off for the first time and the breakaway was soon history. The peloton broke into several pieces. In the second peloton, it was Bora-hansgrohe and Lidl-Trek who had missed the boat. Thanks to their efforts, the two first platoons merged again. And the result? A first race hour in which a whopping 50 km was covered.

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Ultimately, the passage through Zeeland did not produce any decisive breaks in the peloton. On the way to the first passage in Schoten, a group of 5 riders got away: Planckaert (Intermarché-Wanty), Slock (Lotto Dstny), Huens (TDT-Unibet), Van Hemelen (Team Flanders-Baloise) and Appel (Beat Cycling Club).

The race then settled into its traditional pattern. The peloton kept the situation well under control and did not let the lead increase above two minutes. In the end, only Planckaert and Slock remained at the front. Just after starting the final round, Planckaert let his companion go. This left Slock alone in the lead.

In the peloton, Merlier had to change bikes 13 km from the finish. The Soudal Quick-Step leader kept his cool and managed to rejoin the peloton fairly quickly. Meanwhile, Slock’s story in front was over. The peloton began its traditional preparation for the royal sprint on the Churchilllaan.

In that sprint, Philipsen found himself boxed in. Merlier began the sprint from in front and rode convincingly to his first victory in the Scheldeprijs. Philipsen eventually sprinted to second place, with Groenewegen finishing third.