Tim Merlier wins Bredene-Koksijde Classic

Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) claimed his third victory of the season, taking out the Bredene Koksijde Classic ahead of former world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Florian Sénéchal (Deceuninck-Quickstep) in a small bunch sprint.

The early part of the race was dominated by a 13-rider breakaway and an 18-man chasing group until the race entered three local laps around Koksijde.

Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) attacked the leading group and looked set to solo to victory, only to be brought back with just 1.4km to go.

Merlier's teammate Jonas Rickaert led the group into the final few hundred metres and timed the effort perfectly, pulling off with 250 metres to go and, after a few pedal strokes from Sénéchal's teammate, Merlier – winner of Le Samyn and the GP Jean-Pierre Monseré earlier this month – leapt clear and powered to the line a clean pair of wheels ahead of Pedersen.

"I think I'm on the same level as when I won the Belgian Championships," Merlier said after the race. "I was not good, my legs were acidifying. At the first passage on the Kemmelberg I was too far back. I really thought my race was over.

"At the second passage I knew I had to be good, and luckily I was with the chasers. After that we dangled behind the leaders for a hundred kilometres, but when we caught up, I knew I still had a chance because my legs were still good.

"In the end I looked backwards, which I really shouldn't have done. It drives me crazy. But then I saw I had a few lengths and I laid me flat. I am happy, because last year I did not reach this level."

How it unfolded

A windy, brisk but sunny day greeted riders in the afternoon in Bredene for the start of the 199km race and for the first hour of racing was contested at top speeds with the winds already pushing riders to form echelons. The flat run out to the dual ascents of the Kemmelberg already broke up the bunch and when the race hit the climbs, Qhubeka-Assos lit up the race and put three riders into a leading group of 13.

The group included Tim Declercq and Florian Senechal (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Lasse Norman Hansen, Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg  and Max Walscheid (Team Qhubeka Assos), Alex Kirsch and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM), Rui Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates), Edward Planckaert (Alpecin-Fenix), Nils Politt and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), (Deceuninck-QuickStep), and Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel Start-up Nation) but were chased by a larger second group on the flat, windswept return to Koksijde.

With 45km still to race, the second group of 18 riders closed the leaders to 36 seconds with the larger peloton a distant two minutes behind.

That group contained Josef Černy (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Mikkel Bjerg and Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates), Michal Golas (Ineos Grenadiers), Alexander Kamp (Trek-Segafredo), Jake Stewart (Groupama-FDJ), Harry Sweeny (Lotto Soudal), Tim Merlier and Jonas Rickaert (Alpecin-Fenix), Christophe Noppe and Bram Welten (Team Arkea-Samsic), Eduard-Michael Grosu and Dušan Rajović (Delko), Cyril Lemoine (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) and Stanisław Aniłkowski (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles).

Despite the concerted efforts of Rickaert to keep the rotation going, the determination of the leaders was even more coordinated and with 40km to go the gap was going the wrong way for Merlier's group at 44 seconds.

The situation began to reverse as the riders reached the closing three circuits with 31km to go – especially after the leaders missed a sharp turn a kilometer later and the chasers received better directions.

Pöstlberger, Sénéchal and Planckaert had a go with 27km to go, breaking the previous truce, ditching Kirsch but not the rider they most feared, Pedersen. Pöstlberger continued on after the others were brought back and managed to open up a gap of about 15 seconds.

With one of the two Bora riders up the road, it was up to the Qhubeka-Assos trio to lead the chase.

As they passed under the two laps to go banner Pöstlberger had 19 seconds on his previous companions and the second chasing group were lagging at 51 seconds.

Inside 20km to go, Alpecin-Fenix still had belief and Merlier himself began working to bring back the riders - the leader at 18 seconds and chasers at 35 seconds up the road.

Pöstlberger continued to persist with a 15-second lead but the gap between the two chasing groups behind also fell until the two came together before one lap to go.

Leknessund and Janse van Rensburg came across the line with a slight advantage on the other chasers but they were brought back under the pressure of Trek-Segafredo's Kamp. With only eight seconds and 8km to go, Pöstlberger's time out front was coming to an end.

The dunes of Koksijde loomed over the bunch as they got the Austrian in sight. Rickaert punched it off the front, forcing Trek-Segafredo to expend Kirsch in the chase. Politt feigned an attack then sat up to try and help his teammate and it doubled his advantage to seven seconds with 5km to go.

Another kilometre of riders looking at each other, not wanting to tow Pedersen to the line and Pöstlberger had 13 seconds in hand and a lot more confidence in his solo move.

At last, with 10 seconds and 2.3km to go, Qhubeka Assos, Deceuninck-Quickstep and Qhubeka Assos managed to find enough pace to bring the gap down and finally shut down the Austrian's move with 1.4km to go.

It was a small bunch sprint and advantage for the riders with teammates - Rickaert took control of the lead-out for Merlier with Quickstep hot on his heels.

The former Belgian champion sat on Sénéchal's lead-out until what looked like an early jump but Merlier held off Pedersen and the Deceuninck-Quickstep rider for the win.

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 4:13:43
2Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
3Florian Senechal (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep
4Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation
5Eduard-Michael Grosu (Rom) Delko
6Stanislaw Aniolkowski (Pol) Bingoal WB
7Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Team Qhubeka Assos
8Bram Welten (Ned) Team Arkea-Samsic
9Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
10Cyril Lemoine (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
11Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
12Jake Stewart (GBr) Groupama-FDJ
13Rui Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:02
14Benjamin Declercq (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic
15Mikkel Bjerg (Den) UAE Team Emirates
16Harry Sweeny (Aus) Lotto Soudal
17Michal Golas (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers
18Josef Cerny (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:06
19Andreas Leknessund (Nor) Team DSM
20Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:00:10
21Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Team Qhubeka Assos 0:00:16
22Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:01:09
23Anders Skaarseth (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team 0:01:28
24Jordi Warlop (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
25Alexander Kamp (Den) Trek-Segafredo 0:03:09
26Lasse Norman Hansen (Den) Team Qhubeka Assos 0:03:50
27Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
28Alex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo 0:04:19
29Edward Planckaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:04:27
30Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:05:38
31Milan Menten (Bel) Bingoal WB
32Giovanni Lonardi (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
33Shane Archbold (NZl) Deceuninck-QuickStep
34Tom Paquot (Bel) Bingoal WB
35Yoeri Havik (Ned) Beat Cycling
36Donavan Grondin (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
37Yves Coolen (Bel) Beat Cycling
38Lewis Askey (GBr) Groupama-FDJ Continental
39Norman Vahtra (Est) Israel Start-up Nation
40Alfdan De Decker (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
41Thimo Willems (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
42Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis
43Szymon Sajnok (Pol) Cofidis
44Martin Laas (Est) Bora-Hansgrohe
45Mattia Bevilacqua (Ita) Vini Zabu' Brado KTM
46Florian Maitre (Fra) Total Direct Energie
47Jan Willem van Schip (Ned) Beat Cycling
48Etienne van Empel (Ned) Vini Zabu' Brado KTM 0:05:42
49Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
50Samuele Zoccarato (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
51Tobias Bayer (Aut) Alpecin-Fenix
52Patrick Gamper (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
53Davide Orrico (Ita) Vini Zabu' Brado KTM
54Matthew Walls (GBr) Bora-Hansgrohe
55Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
56Thomas Boudat (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
57Evaldas Siskevicius (Ltu) Delko
58Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
59August Jensen (Nor) Delko
60Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
61Niklas Märkl (Ger) Team DSM
62Riccardo Minali (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
63Pierre Barbier (Fra) Delko
64Andreas Goeman (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
65Ruben Apers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
66Timothy Dupont (Bel) Bingoal WB
67Rudy Barbier (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation
68Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
69Emils Liepins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
70Jonas Castrique (Bel) Bingoal WB
71Syver Wærsted (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
72Matteo Moschetti (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
73Frederik Backaert (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
74Julien Morice (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
75Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
76Gianni Marchand (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
77Wesley Kreder (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
78Piotr Havik (Ned) Beat Cycling
79Andreas Nielsen (Den) Team Qhubeka Assos
80Antonio Puppio (Ita) Team Qhubeka
81Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
82José Gonçalves (Por) Delko
83Samuel Leroux (Fra) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole 0:05:54
84Emiel Vermeulen (Bel) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole
85Dusan Rajovic (Srb) Delko
86Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
87André Carvalho (Por) Cofidis
88Alex Richardson (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix
89Tom Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal WB
90Alexis Renard (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation
91Iljo Keisse (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
92Alberto Dainese (Ita) Team DSM
93Jens Debusschere (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
94Christophe Noppe (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic
95Bert De Backer (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
96Damien Gaudin (Fra) Total Direct Energie
97Stijn Steels (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
98Morten Hulgaard (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
99Jelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis 0:06:11
100Lionel Taminiaux (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
DNSNils Eekhoff (Ned) Team DSM
DNFJuraj Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFIan Garrison (USA) Deceuninck-QuickStep
DNFAleksandr Riabushenko (Blr) UAE Team Emirates
DNFJuan Sebastian Molano Benavides (Col) UAE Team Emirates
DNFIvo Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates
DNFLeon Heinschke (Ger) Development Team DSM
DNFMartin Salmon (Ger) Team DSM
DNFEnzo Leijnse (Ned) Development Team DSM
DNFJhonatan Narvaez Prado (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
DNFCameron Wurf (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers
DNFCarlos Rodriguez Cano (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers
DNFAlexys Brunel (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
DNFRait Ärm (Est) Groupama-FDJ Continental
DNFClément Davy (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
DNFFilippo Conca (Ita) Lotto Soudal
DNFMatthew Holmes (GBr) Lotto Soudal
DNFSébastien Grignard (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFSylvain Moniquet (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFGerben Thijssen (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFTom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis
DNFEmmanuel Morin (Fra) Cofidis
DNFTaj Jones (Aus) Israel Cycling Academy
DNFMatteo Pelucchi (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos
DNFDylan Sunderland (Aus) Team Qhubeka Assos
DNFJasper De Plus (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNFLudwig De Winter (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNFThéo Delacroix (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNFDanny van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNFMarkus Pajur (Est) Team Arkea-Samsic
DNFAlan Riou (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
DNFClément Carisey (Fra) Delko
DNFJonas Van Genechten (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
DNFKevin Reza (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
DNFJeremy Cabot (Fra) Total Direct Energie
DNFPaul Ourselin (Fra) Total Direct Energie
DNFMarlon Gaillard (Fra) Total Direct Energie
DNFGeoffrey Soupe (Fra) Total Direct Energie
DNFBoris Vallee (Bel) Bingoal WB
DNFNiklas Larsen (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFErik Nordsaeter Resell (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFRasmus Tiller (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFAlex Colman (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFKenny De Ketele (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFJens Reynders (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFSasha Weemaes (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFAndrea Bartolozzi (Ita) Vini Zabu' Brado KTM
DNFAlessandro Iacchi (Ita) Vini Zabu' Brado KTM
DNFJoab Schneiter (Swi) Vini Zabu' Brado KTM
DNFWout van Elzakker (Ned) Vini Zabu' Brado KTM
DNFNicolas Dalla Valle (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
DNFMirco Maestri (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
DNFFabio Mazzucco (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
DNFAlessandro Monaco (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
DNFThibau Verhofstadt (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
DNFThomas Joseph (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
DNFLennert Teugels (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
DNFEnzo Wouters (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
DNFMathias De Witte (Bel) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole
DNFJérémy Leveau (Fra) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole
DNFThomas Denis (Fra) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole
DNFMaximilien Picoux (Bel) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole
DNFValentin Tabellion (Fra) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole
DNFMartijn Budding (Ned) Beat Cycling
DNFJules Hesters (Bel) Beat Cycling
DNFStefano Museeuw (Bel) Beat Cycling

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