Merlier joins from Alpecin-Deceuninck and he will fill the sprinter slot vacated by Mark Cavendish, who will leave the team at the end of the season. Fabio Jakobsen was selected as QuickStep-AlphaVinyl’s sprinter for the Tour de France, winning the opening road stage.
The 29-year-old Merlier won the Belgian national title this year as well as the Classic Brugge-De Panne, Nokere Koerse and a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. Last season, he landed stage wins at both the Tour and the Giro d’Italia, but he has not raced a Grand Tour in 2022.
The experienced Hirt joins on the back of the best season of his career at Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert. The Czech won the Tour of Oman early in the campaign before soloing to victory in Aprica in the final week of the Giro.
Hirt previously raced for CCC and Astana, and his arrival further bolsters the climbing support around Remco Evenepoel.
The trio of signings is completed by Casper Pedersen, winner of Paris-Tours in 2020. The Dane has been part of the DSM squad since 2019, having previously raced for Aqua Blue Sport. He will play a part in QuickStep's sprint train.
"We are really pleased with the business we have done and that we have been able to bring in three quality riders to strengthen our squad for the coming years," manager Patrick Lefevere said in a statement on Thursday.
"I think my admiration for Tim is well documented and it will be fantastic to see both Belgian National Champion jerseys back in the Wolfpack."
Lefevere compared Pedersen to his fellow countryman Michael Mørkøv, saying he shared "many similar traits" with the lead-out man, while he highlighted Hirt's ability as a climber. "He has the talent to make results for himself but he also works really hard for others," Lefevere said.
Lefevere's team will race under the Soudal-QuickStep banner from 2023, with Evenepoel and Julian Alaphilippe the leading lights on the roster. Jakobsen and Kasper Asgreen also remain with the team, but Lefevere has confirmed that Cavendish will depart QuickStep at the end of this season.
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.