Tim Merlier wins Le Samyn

Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) won Le Samyn in a sprint from a heavily reduced bunch, after a typically active display from his teammate Mathieu van der Poel.

After a breathless day’s racing, Merlier produced a powerful acceleration to counter a long-range sprint from Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X), while the final podium spot went to Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux).

A group of 35 riders entered the finish straight together, led by Van der Poel, whose handlebars were heavily damaged. The Dutchman had attacked briefly with more than 40km remaining and went clear on the final cobblestone sector with Florian Sénéchal (Deceuninck-QuickStep) before switching to a lead-out role in the final 1500 metres.

Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka Assos) was a relentlessly attacking force and formed the first significant selection on the second of four laps of a 25km finishing circuit that contained four cobbled sectors, some of them uphill. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was part of the 20-man move, but after repeated accelerations from Van der Poel in the thinning peloton behind, the race came back together on the penultimate lap.  

Campenaerts went again just before the bell and spent much of the final lap alone in front of a QuickStep-led peloton, before the race came back to life in the final 15 kilometres. Just after Campenaerts was caught by a stretched chase group, his teammate Lukasz Wisniowski went clear and spent a few more kilometres alone out front.

He was caught on the flat final sector of the Rue de Belle Vue, where Sénéchal produced a scorching acceleration. Van der Poel was the only rider able to follow, although he seemed reluctant to commit with the Frenchman once they emerged onto the tarmac with 3km to go.

A few riders scrambled across to them and Sénéchal made once last-ditch effort before deciding against towing Van der Poel to the line. The Dutchman then found himself on the front and allowed the reduced peloton to come back as he took up the lead-out reins under the flamme rouge.

Campenaerts took yet another flyer but Tiller was the first to launch a proper sprint. Even that proved too far out, as a patient Merlier made his way up into the slipstream before rounding him and celebrating a fine win for his team.

How it unfolded

It was a fast start under blue skies in the Belgian town of Quaregnon, near the French border. Despite a number of attempts, it took an age for a breakaway to form as the peloton rattled off 45 kilometres in the first hour.

A group finally went clear after around 70km, containing Kenny De Ketele (Sport Vlaanderen Baloise), Joey Rosskopf (Rally Cycling), Gianni Marchand (Tarteletto-Isorex), Jan-Willem van Schip (Beat Cycling) and Enzo Leijnse (Team DSM).

The quintet established a lead of three minutes before it became a quartet when Marchand was dropped as the riders hit the cobbles for the first time with just over 100km to go.  

The finishing circuit, to be completed four times, contained four sectors of cobbles, some of which were on twisting uphill roads: Rue du vert Pignon, the Côte de la Roquette, the Chemin de Wihéries, Côte des Nonettes and the Rue de Belle Vue.

By the end of the first lap, the break’s lead was less than a minute, and it didn’t survive the second lap as the race burst into life. After the peloton started to fragment on the Côte de la Roquette and Antoine Raugel (Groupama-FDJ Conti) attacked ahead of the Côte des Nonettes, Campenaerts instigated the first big selection with 60km remaining.

The UCI Hour Record holder dragged 19 riders across to the break: Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-Up Nation), Mark Cavendish, Bert Van Lerberghe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg (Qhubeka Assos), Kobe Goossens, Brent Van Moer (Lotto Soudal), Danny van Poppel (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Damien Touzé (AG2R-Citroën), Jempy Drucker (Cofidis), Timothy Dupont (Bingoal Casino-Wallonie Bruxelles), Kenny De Ketele (Sport Vlaanderen Baloise), Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix), Lorrenzo Manzin (Total Direct Energie), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic), Rasmus Tiller, Markus Hoelgaard (Uno-X), Maurice Ballerstedt (Jumbo-Visma), Antoine Raugel (Groupama-FDJ).

The catch was made after the final sector of cobbles at Belle Vue, and the peloton let it go initially. However, when the gap hit a minute on the penultimate lap, Van der Poel – who had teammate Merlier up the road – decided enough was enough and went on the attack. He ripped clear on the Nonettes. Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was with him initially but fell away, as John Degenkolb (Lotto Soudal) and Amaury Capiot (Arkea-Samsic) scrambled to bridge across.

That group was caught but Van der Poel continued to press on, with the lead group now just a dozen seconds up ahead. A fluid portion of the race ensued, with Van Lerberghe accelerating up ahead, before Campenaerts and Vanmarcke broke free together ahead of the Belle Vue cobbles. Behind, Van der Poel accelerated again as a reduced peloton swallowed up the remnants from the large break. Cavendish punched his way over to Vanmarcke and Campenaerts but they were quickly caught by the reduced bunch.

Immediately, Campenaerts went again, taking a lead of a handful of seconds over the line and onto the final lap. However, the race then settled down somewhat, with Deceuninck-QuickStep putting six riders on the front to calmly control the Belgian’s advantage.

Vanmarcke punctured with 15km to go, and Campenaerts was finally caught with 14km to go, at which point a teammate of his accelerated. 

Van der Poel was in second wheel on the cobbles as the peloton stretched but it was Dries De Bondt who attacked for Alpecin-Fenix, with Campenaerts summoning the energy to go again and join him. Behind them, Van der Poel marked attacks and took Tim Declercq’s wheel as the Belgian dragged it back for QuickStep with 11km to go.

Another Qhubeka attack came quickly, with Wisniowski on the move, and the Pole established a handy lead. There were a couple of short-lived attacks from the chase group, but Van der Poel soon emerged at the front of it to help drag it back. 

Wisniowski took just a few seconds onto the Belle Vue cobbles with 4km to go, but that was wiped out when Sénéchal accelerated, with Van der Poel in his wheel. The Frenchman urged Van der Poel to collaborate but there was no instant response, allowing Vanmarcke, Wisniowski, and Van Poppel to come across. Sénéchal kept the pace high before attacking when Van der Poel slowed things with his turn. He gained no ground, however, and soon decided to down tools.

With 1.7km to go, Van der Poel found himself on the front, with the reduced peloton coming back. He led into the final kilometre, at which point Campenaerts launched yet another acceleration. Tiller waited longer but still not long enough, as Merlier timed it to perfection.

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 4:34:29
2Rasmus Tiller (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
3Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
4Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation
5Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation
6Amaury Capiot (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic
7John Degenkolb (Ger) Lotto Soudal
8Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos
9Timothy Dupont (Bel) Bingoal WB
10Milan Menten (Bel) Bingoal WB
11Jordi Warlop (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
12Damien Touze (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
13Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Qhubeka Assos
14Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Cofidis
15Fabio Van Den Bossche (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
16Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos
17Olav Kooij (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
18Daan Hoole (Ned) SEG Racing Academy
19Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis
20Thimo Willems (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
21Clément Russo (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
22Lorrenzo Manzin (Fra) Total Direct Energie
23Danny van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
24Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team
25Søren Wærenskjold (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
26Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
27Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
28Florian Senechal (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:05
29Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep
30Martijn Budding (Ned) Beat Cycling
31Jarno Mobach (Ned) Leopard Pro Cycling 0:00:07
32Stan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team
33Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation 0:00:09
34Markus Hoelgaard (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
35Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:00:12
36Cedric Beullens (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
37Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix 0:00:16
38Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
39Jan Willem van Schip (Ned) Beat Cycling 0:00:53
40Maurice Ballerstedt (Ger) Jumbo-Visma Development Team
41Antoine Raugel (Fra) Groupama-FDJ Continental 0:01:05
42Tom Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal WB
43Kobe Goossens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
44Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal
45Carlos Barbero (Spa) Team Qhubeka Assos
46Jannik Steimle (Ger) Deceuninck-QuickStep
47Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
48Joey Rosskopf (USA) Rally Cycling
49Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
50Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal WB
51Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation 0:02:25
52Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
53Rudy Barbier (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation 0:02:38
54Stan Van Tricht (Bel) SEG Racing Academy
55Matis Louvel (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
56Marius Mayrhofer (Ger) Development Team DSM
57Frederik Backaert (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
58Jonas Van Genechten (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
59Niki Terpstra (Ned) Total Direct Energie 0:02:41
60Bert De Backer (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
61Alvaro Hodeg Chagui (Col) Deceuninck-QuickStep
62Erik Nordsaeter Resell (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
63Adrien Petit (Fra) Total Direct Energie 0:02:44
64Damien Gaudin (Fra) Total Direct Energie
65Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Start-up Nation 0:04:40
66Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 0:04:42
67Luuc Bugter (Ned) Beat Cycling
68Rait Ärm (Est) Groupama-FDJ Continental
69Stijn Steels (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:04:43
70Colin Heiderscheid (Lux) Leopard Pro Cycling 0:05:09
71Wessel Krul (Ned) SEG Racing Academy
72Hugo Page (Fra) Groupama-FDJ Continental
73Rory Townsend (Irl) Canyon DHB Sungod
74Justas Beniusis (Ltu) LVIV Cycling Team
75Lewis Askey (GBr) Groupama-FDJ Continental
76Dries De Pooter (Bel) SEG Racing Academy
77Tom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis
78Axel van der Tuuk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Development Team
79Marijn van den Berg (Ned) Groupama-FDJ Continental
80Milan Paulus (Bel) SEG Racing Academy
81Andreas Goeman (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
82Rick Pluimers (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Development Team
83Mick van Dijke (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Development Team
84Marten Kooistra (Ned) Beat Cycling
85Gianni Marchand (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
86Tim Torn Teutenberg (Ger) Leopard Pro Cycling
87Markus Pajur (Est) Team Arkea-Samsic
88Stanislaw Aniolkowski (Pol) Bingoal WB
89Colin Joyce (USA) Rally Cycling
90Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
91Szymon Sajnok (Pol) Cofidis
92Pierre Barbier (Fra) Delko
93Andreas Nielsen (Den) Team Qhubeka Assos
94Leon Heinschke (Ger) Development Team DSM
95Nicholas Dlamini (RSA) Team Qhubeka Assos
96Alex Richardson (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix
97August Jensen (Nor) Delko
98Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
99Anthony Jullien (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
100Anders Skaarseth (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
101Ludwig De Winter (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
102Christophe Noppe (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic
103Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Team Qhubeka Assos
104Marc Sarreau (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
105Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
106Julien Trarieux (Fra) Delko
107Yves Coolen (Bel) Beat Cycling
108Evaldas Siskevicius (Ltu) Delko
109Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
110Gerben Thijssen (Bel) Lotto Soudal
111Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
112Laurenz Rex (Bel) Bingoal WB
113Jelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis
114Julien Morice (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
115Kenny De Ketele (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
116Nickolas Zukowsky (Can) Rally Cycling
117Stephen Bassett (USA) Rally Cycling
118Florian Maitre (Fra) Total Direct Energie
119Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) Total Direct Energie
120Jacob Scott (GBr) Canyon DHB Sungod 0:05:18
121Matthew Bostock (GBr) Canyon DHB Sungod 0:07:14
122Magnus Sheffield (USA) Rally Cycling 0:10:15
123Pier Andre Cote (Can) Rally Cycling
124Paul Penhoet (Fra) Groupama-FDJ Continental 0:15:12
125Finn Fisher-Black (NZl) Jumbo-Visma Development Team
DNFNorman Vahtra (Est) Israel Start-up Nation
DNFSébastien Grignard (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFSylvain Moniquet (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFXandres Vervloesem (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFEmmanuel Morin (Fra) Cofidis
DNFBoris Vallee (Bel) Bingoal WB
DNFRuben Apers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFKenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFLionel Taminiaux (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
DNFDonavan Grondin (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
DNFAlan Boileau (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
DNFThibault Ferasse (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
DNFClément Carisey (Fra) Delko
DNFEduard-Michael Grosu (Rom) Delko
DNFChristopher Lawless (GBr) Total Direct Energie
DNFJonas Iversby Hvideberg (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFJulien Van Den Brande (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
DNFAlfdan De Decker (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
DNFLennert Teugels (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
DNFEnzo Wouters (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
DNFMaxime De Poorter (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
DNFMaxwell De Broeder (Bel) LVIV Cycling Team
DNFBrecht Stas (Bel) LVIV Cycling Team
DNFToni Franz (Ger) LVIV Cycling Team
DNFRaphaël Kockelmann (Lux) LVIV Cycling Team
DNFBernardo Gonçalves (Por) LVIV Cycling Team
DNFMantas Januskevicius (Ltu) LVIV Cycling Team
DNFJordy Bouts (Bel) Beat Cycling
DNFPiotr Havik (Ned) Beat Cycling
DNFRobert Scott (GBr) Canyon DHB Sungod
DNFCallum Macleod (GBr) Canyon DHB Sungod
DNFReece Wood (GBr) Canyon DHB Sungod
DNFDaniel Tulett (GBr) Canyon DHB Sungod
DNFLaurence Pithie (NZl) Groupama-FDJ Continental
DNFMichel Heßmann (Ger) Jumbo-Visma Development Team
DNFMaikel Zijlaard (Ned) SEG Racing Academy
DNFJesper Rasch (Ned) SEG Racing Academy
DNFGianmarco Garofoli (Ita) Development Team DSM
DNFEnzo Leijnse (Ned) Development Team DSM

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Patrick Fletcher
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2022 he has been Deputy Editor, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.

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