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Merlier beats Groenewegen in Classic Brugge-De Panne photo finish

Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) claimed his third victory of the season at the Classic Brugge-De Panne, edging Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) at the finish line by millimetres in an agonisingly close sprint finish to end the 208-kilometre race.

The Belgian flew up the barriers in the closing metres, going head-to-head with his Dutch rival before prevailing by the finest of margins as Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) grabbed third just behind the duo.

"I launched quickly, and I was a bit lucky that the door didn't close," Merlier said after his victory. "I felt Groenewegen coming and had to 'snake' as we say, but in the end, it was just enough.

"The run-up to the sprint was actually indescribable. If they would show pictures of that... I'm glad I got to the finish safely. I knew the dangerous parts. A fresh peloton is always dangerous, of course.

"We're not allowed on the bike path, but sometimes you just can't do anything else when you have to swerve. That makes it extra dangerous, because you want to get off as soon as possible.

"Scheldeprijs is also coming up, but I'm quite satisfied with the season I've already ridden. It's my third win already and I'm quite proud of that."

QuickStep-AlphaVinyl had, unsurprisingly taken control at the head of the peloton inside the final kilometre of the race but come the final dash to the line their man Mark Cavendish was caught out of position, detached from lead-out man Michael Mørkøv.

At the front, 20-year-old Olav Kooij launched the sprint, going long as he hit the front with 250 metres left to run. That move proved a mistake, though, as the Jumbo-Visma rider was swamped closer to the line, with Merlier sneaking past against the barriers as Groenewegen jumped to the middle of the road.

The pair hit the wind at 150 metres to go and were barely separable to the line, the finish too close to call by the naked eye. Bouhanni came around the outside of Groenewegen but had only just missed the prime time to go, coming in less than a wheel length down on the top two.

Just behind the podium finishers, Max Walscheid (Cofidis) let out a road of frustration as he finished half a bike length off the win in between Merlier and Groenewegen. Kooij took fifth place ahead of Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ).

How it unfolded

Following Opening Weekend at the end of February, the 46th edition of the Classic Brugge-De Panne (well, its fifth as a one-day Classic), marked the start of the spring Northern Classics 'proper'.

The 165-rider peloton at the start in Bruges would face 207.9 kilometres of more or less pan-flat roads en route to De Panne. A Classic without cobbles or hills, the riders would instead face the prospect of possible crosswinds on the way to the coast and on the three closing laps around De Panne.

A three-man jumped away from the peloton very early on in the stage during the quick start. Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Dimitri Peyskens (Bingoal-Pauwels Sauzen-WB), and Jens Reynders (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) were the men in question, and they were immediately let go.

The break very quickly built a gap of two minutes as the sprinters' teams bluffed over who would take over the pacemaking. After around a half an hour of racing, they were seven minutes up the road before QuickStep-AlphaVinyl's Iljo Keisse relented and went to work at the front of the peloton.

Luckily for the peloton, and sadly for viewing fans, the possible wind never struck the race, with most of the afternoon passing without much incident. Instead, the riders could a clear sky, sunshine and temperatures of 17-18°C out on the road.

Inside the final 100 kilometres, that seven-minute gap had been brought back to a more manageable three minutes as QuickStep controlled the situation along with Bora-Hansgrohe and Alpecin-Fenix.

At 60km to go, the breakaway burst into life as the trio of riders approached the day's only intermediate sprint, with Reynders leaping from the rear of the group to cross the line first. The prize, brought by race sponsor Minerva, a lifetime supply of e-bikes.

The feed zone followed, with riders taking on sustenance ahead of a certain fast finish in De Panne, while the bell rung for the final lap of the race shortly afterwards as the riders passed the 44-kilometre to go mark.

There, the break's advantage was already down to 50 seconds, still with a long distance to go. The peloton would let the trio hang out front for a while yet, not ready to make the final catch until closer to the finish.

At 35km to go, Peyskens, sensing the end of the move was near, went solo at the head of the race, splitting up the breakaway as he sought a bit more TV time for his team. Reynders made it across as Battaglin faded back to the peloton, but a few kilometres later it was all over.

The peloton made the final catch at 31 kilometres to go, with Alpecin-Fenix and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl leading the way for their sprinters Tim Merlier and Mark Cavendish. Two kilometres later, a crash near the rear of the peloton held several riders up, with Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar), Niki Terpstra (TotalEnergies), and Jelle Wallays (Cofidis) among those caught out before chasing back on.

As the pace and nerves ramped up on the way to the final, there was another crash as Movistar's Max Kanter and Johan Jacobs went down after a nasty collision with a race marshal.

Heading into the final 20 kilometres, Lotto Soudal (Arnaud De Lie) and Groupama-FDJ (for Arnaud Démare) moved up to wrest control at the front, though a number of other major sprint squads would flow to the front over the following kilometres, too.

BikeExchange-Jayco (for Dylan Groenewegen) led the way into the final 10 kilometres as the battle for position saw riders hopping onto bike paths and around marshals and road furniture in order to move up in the group.

At the rear of the peloton, riders were losing contact due to the high speeds at the front as the likes of Lotto Soudal, Bahrain Victorious and Cofidis also joined the battle for positions. Luckily, there were no major incidents on the run-in until the 1.5-kilometre mark.

There, exiting a corner in 10th position, Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) was left with nowhere to go on the outside by a Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces-WB rider. The German couldn't stay upright as he scraped the metal barrier and hit the deck hard, his race over. Just behind, Lotto Soudal's Arnaud De Lie somehow managed to stay upright with a superb piece of bike handling.

Into the final kilometre it was Alpecin-Fenix rider Jonas Rickaert driving the pace at the head of the peloton, peeling off before QuickStep-AlphaVinyl took it up with Jannik Steimle and Bert Van Lerberghe.

Once their job had been done, it was Kooij who took over to launch the final dash from the line a long way out. To his right, it was Merlier who sped through to take the win by a tiny margin on the line.

Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 4:45:41
2Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) BikeExchange-Jayco
3Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
4Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Cofidis
5Olav Kooij (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
6Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
7Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis
8Arnaud De Lie (Bel) Lotto Soudal
9Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
10Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious
11Stanislaw Aniolkowski (Pol) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
12Michael Mørkøv (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
13Max Kanter (Ger) Movistar Team
14Timothy Dupont (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
15Lorrenzo Manzin (Fra) TotalEnergies
16Rick Zabel (Ger) Israel-Premier Tech
17Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
18Luis Mas Bonet (Spa) Movistar Team
19Søren Wærenskjold (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
20Itamar Einhorn (Isr) Israel-Premier Tech
21Biniam Girmay (Eri) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
22Danny van Poppel (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe
23Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels-KTM
24Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
25Rudy Barbier (Fra) Israel-Premier Tech
26Mark Cavendish (GBr) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
27Arne Marit (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
28Mikkel Bjerg (Den) UAE Team Emirates
29Gerben Thijssen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
30Milan Fretin (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
31Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
32Marijn van den Berg (Ned) EF Education-EasyPost
33Dries Van Gestel (Bel) TotalEnergies
34Niklas Märkl (Ger) Team DSM
35Sam Welsford (Aus) Team DSM
36Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Israel-Premier Tech
37Jens Reynders (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
38Jannik Steimle (Ger) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
39Jonathan Milan (Ita) Bahrain Victorious
40Ryan Mullen (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
41Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education-EasyPost
42Iñigo Elosegui Momeñe (Spa) Movistar Team
43Davide Martinelli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
44Sandy Dujardin (Fra) TotalEnergies
45Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-FDJ 0:00:13
46Mathias Norsgaard (Den) Movistar Team
47Pierre Barbier (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
48Miles Scotson (Aus) Groupama-FDJ
49Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
50Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane' 0:00:17
51Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:18
52Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
53Timo Roosen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
54Campbell Stewart (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco
55Stijn Steels (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
56Erik Nordsaeter Resell (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
57Markus Pajur (Est) Arkea-Samsic
58Lasse Norman Hansen (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
59Amaury Capiot (Bel) Arkea-Samsic
60Bram Welten (Ned) Groupama-FDJ
61Jonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education-EasyPost
62Felix Groß (Ger) Uae Team Emirates
63Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team
64Filip Maciejuk (Pol) Bahrain Victorious
65Artyom Zakharov (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan Team 0:00:28
66Sacha Modolo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
67Wesley Kreder (Ned) Cofidis
68Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
69Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
70Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Lotto Soudal
71Rui Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:37
72Guy Sagiv (Isr) Israel-Premier Tech
73Quentin Jauregui (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
74Sasha Weemaes (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
75Johan Jacobs (Swi) Movistar Team
76Fabio Felline (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
77Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Team DSM
78Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
79Kevin Ledanois (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
80Tom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis
81Julius Johansen (Den) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
82Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal
83Alex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:42
84Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team 0:00:45
85Enrico Zanoncello (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane' 0:00:47
86Michele Gazzoli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
87Alberto Dainese (Ita) Team DSM
88Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:49
89Scott Thwaites (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix
90Luka Mezgec (Slo) BikeExchange-Jayco
91Maurice Ballerstedt (Ger) Alpecin-Fenix
92Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
93Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
94Taj Jones (Aus) Israel-Premier Tech 0:00:54
95Jens Debusschere (Bel) B&B Hotels-KTM
96Benjamin Declercq (Bel) Arkea-Samsic
97Christophe Noppe (Bel) Arkea-Samsic
98Alex Edmondson (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco 0:01:04
99Michael Gogl (Aut) Alpecin-Fenix 0:01:07
100Karl Patrick Lauk (Est) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB 0:01:08
101Laurenz Rex (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
102Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain Victorious
103Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bahrain Victorious
104Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) UAE Team Emirates
105Maciej Bodnar (Pol) TotalEnergies
106Jordi Warlop (Bel) B&B Hotels-KTM
107Owain Doull (GBr) EF Education-EasyPost 0:01:10
108Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
109Jules Hesters (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
110Martin Urianstad (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
111Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-FDJ
112Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
113Leonardo Basso (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
114Leon Heinschke (Ger) Team DSM
115Kelland O’Brien (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
116Tom Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
117Sébastien Grignard (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:01:17
118Alexander Konychev (Ita) BikeExchange-Jayco 0:01:29
119Niki Terpstra (Ned) TotalEnergies
120Kevin Van Melsen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
121Jon Aberasturi Izaga (Spa) Trek-Segafredo
122Luca Colnaghi (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
123Adrien Petit (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
124Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis
125Jonas Koch (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
126Ben Healy (Irl) EF Education-EasyPost
127Clément Davy (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
128Tuur Dens (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
129Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education-EasyPost
130Iljo Keisse (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
131Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal
132Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
133Kamil Gradek (Pol) Bahrain Victorious
134Gianni Moscon (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
135Cees Bol (Ned) Team DSM
136Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
137Julien Vermote (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:01:50
138Jakob Egholm (Den) Trek-Segafredo 0:02:03
139Jos van Emden (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
140Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) EF Education-EasyPost 0:02:25
141Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
142Luke Durbridge (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
143Barnabás Peák (Hun) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
144Florian Stork (Ger) Team DSM
145Dimitri Peyskens (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
146Lars Saugstad (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
147Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:03:32
148Jordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe
149Pascal Ackermann (Ger) UAE Team Emirates
150Matthias Brändle (Aut) Israel-Premier Tech 0:04:03
151Daan Hoole (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
152Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Lotto Soudal 0:05:15
153Cyril Lemoine (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
154Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane' 0:05:55
DNFNiccolò Bonifazio (Ita) TotalEnergies
DNFJelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis
DNFGonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar Team
DNFTim van Dijke (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
DNFJasha Sütterlin (Ger) Bahrain Victorious
DNSSamuele Zoccarato (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
DNSSzymon Sajnok (Pol) Cofidis
DNSMikkel Honoré (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
DNSWilliam Levy (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNSJulien Morice (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM

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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.


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