The deal for Tim Merlier to join QuickStep-AlphaVinyl from 2023 is reportedly complete, with the sprinter set to leave Alpecin-Fenix after three-and-a-half-years with the squad.
29-year-old Merlier is set to join the team as a replacement for the outgoing Mark Cavendish, who has hired new agents as he seeks to prolong his career elsewhere.
QuickStep-AlphaVinyl team boss Patrick Lefevere had previously expressed an interest in Merlier, saying in a recent interview with La Dernière Heure that he would like to have a Belgian sprinter on the team.
Merlier is out of contract at the end of 2022 and, according to reports from WielerFlits (opens in new tab), the deal for him to make the switch to QuickStep is complete.
The Belgian outlet reported that UAE Team Emirates and Israel-Premier Tech had expressed an interest in signing Merlier, while Alpecin-Fenix also wanted to keep him as they look to move up to the WorldTour next season.
In the end, though, it's QuickStep who look to have won out, with a two-year deal set to be signed, though any official announcement will have to wait until cycling's transfer window officially opens on August 1.
The move means that Merlier will team up with Dutch sprinter Fabio Jakobsen on the team, which also employs the top lead-out train in the sport, including Michael Mørkøv, Davide Ballerini, Tim Declercq, and Kasper Asgreen.
Merlier has racked up three wins so far in 2022, including a stage at Tirreno-Adriatico, while last year he took a stage apiece at the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.
He was set to return to the Giro this year, though was ruled out due to a gruesome elbow injury sustained at Paris-Roubaix. He'll race alongside Mathieu van der Poel and fellow sprinter Jasper Philipsen at the Tour this July.
The market for sprinters
Merlier's signature takes a major name off the sprinter market for 2023, with many of the sport's top fastmen already signed up beyond the end of the season.
Jakobsen, Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates), Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-Premier Tech), and Giro points leader Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) are signed up through next season.
Biniam Girmay recently signed a new deal with Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert through 2026, while other up and coming sprinters such as Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) and Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Soudal) are also tied to ongoing contracts.
That leaves Cavendish as the highest-profile sprinter on the market this year along with his former teammate Fernando Gaviria, who is out of contract at UAE Team Emirates.
Intermarché Classics leader Alexander Kristoff is also out of contract, while young talent Kaden Groves (BikeExchange-Jayco) is also free to move, as are Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) and Cees Bol (Team DSM).
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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.