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.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||4:34:29|
|2||Rasmus Tiller (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|3||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|4||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation|
|5||Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation|
|6||Amaury Capiot (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|7||John Degenkolb (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|8||Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|9||Timothy Dupont (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|10||Milan Menten (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|11||Jordi Warlop (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|12||Damien Touze (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|13||Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|14||Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Cofidis|
|15||Fabio Van Den Bossche (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|16||Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|17||Olav Kooij (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|18||Daan Hoole (Ned) SEG Racing Academy|
|19||Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis|
|20||Thimo Willems (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|21||Clément Russo (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|22||Lorrenzo Manzin (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|23||Danny van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|24||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|25||Søren Wærenskjold (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|26||Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|27||Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|28||Florian Senechal (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:05|
|29||Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|30||Martijn Budding (Ned) Beat Cycling|
|31||Jarno Mobach (Ned) Leopard Pro Cycling||0:00:07|
|32||Stan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|33||Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation||0:00:09|
|34||Markus Hoelgaard (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|35||Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||0:00:12|
|36||Cedric Beullens (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|37||Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix||0:00:16|
|38||Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|39||Jan Willem van Schip (Ned) Beat Cycling||0:00:53|
|40||Maurice Ballerstedt (Ger) Jumbo-Visma Development Team|
|41||Antoine Raugel (Fra) Groupama-FDJ Continental||0:01:05|
|42||Tom Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal WB|
|43||Kobe Goossens (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|44||Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|45||Carlos Barbero (Spa) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|46||Jannik Steimle (Ger) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|47||Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|48||Joey Rosskopf (USA) Rally Cycling|
|49||Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|50||Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|51||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation||0:02:25|
|52||Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|53||Rudy Barbier (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation||0:02:38|
|54||Stan Van Tricht (Bel) SEG Racing Academy|
|55||Matis Louvel (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|56||Marius Mayrhofer (Ger) Development Team DSM|
|57||Frederik Backaert (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|58||Jonas Van Genechten (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|59||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Total Direct Energie||0:02:41|
|60||Bert De Backer (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|61||Alvaro Hodeg Chagui (Col) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|62||Erik Nordsaeter Resell (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|63||Adrien Petit (Fra) Total Direct Energie||0:02:44|
|64||Damien Gaudin (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|65||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Start-up Nation||0:04:40|
|66||Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team||0:04:42|
|67||Luuc Bugter (Ned) Beat Cycling|
|68||Rait Ärm (Est) Groupama-FDJ Continental|
|69||Stijn Steels (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:04:43|
|70||Colin Heiderscheid (Lux) Leopard Pro Cycling||0:05:09|
|71||Wessel Krul (Ned) SEG Racing Academy|
|72||Hugo Page (Fra) Groupama-FDJ Continental|
|73||Rory Townsend (Irl) Canyon DHB Sungod|
|74||Justas Beniusis (Ltu) LVIV Cycling Team|
|75||Lewis Askey (GBr) Groupama-FDJ Continental|
|76||Dries De Pooter (Bel) SEG Racing Academy|
|77||Tom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis|
|78||Axel van der Tuuk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Development Team|
|79||Marijn van den Berg (Ned) Groupama-FDJ Continental|
|80||Milan Paulus (Bel) SEG Racing Academy|
|81||Andreas Goeman (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex|
|82||Rick Pluimers (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Development Team|
|83||Mick van Dijke (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Development Team|
|84||Marten Kooistra (Ned) Beat Cycling|
|85||Gianni Marchand (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex|
|86||Tim Torn Teutenberg (Ger) Leopard Pro Cycling|
|87||Markus Pajur (Est) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|88||Stanislaw Aniolkowski (Pol) Bingoal WB|
|89||Colin Joyce (USA) Rally Cycling|
|90||Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|91||Szymon Sajnok (Pol) Cofidis|
|92||Pierre Barbier (Fra) Delko|
|93||Andreas Nielsen (Den) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|94||Leon Heinschke (Ger) Development Team DSM|
|95||Nicholas Dlamini (RSA) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|96||Alex Richardson (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix|
|97||August Jensen (Nor) Delko|
|98||Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|99||Anthony Jullien (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|100||Anders Skaarseth (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|101||Ludwig De Winter (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|102||Christophe Noppe (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|103||Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|104||Marc Sarreau (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|105||Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|106||Julien Trarieux (Fra) Delko|
|107||Yves Coolen (Bel) Beat Cycling|
|108||Evaldas Siskevicius (Ltu) Delko|
|109||Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|110||Gerben Thijssen (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|111||Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|112||Laurenz Rex (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|113||Jelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis|
|114||Julien Morice (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|115||Kenny De Ketele (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|116||Nickolas Zukowsky (Can) Rally Cycling|
|117||Stephen Bassett (USA) Rally Cycling|
|118||Florian Maitre (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|119||Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|120||Jacob Scott (GBr) Canyon DHB Sungod||0:05:18|
|121||Matthew Bostock (GBr) Canyon DHB Sungod||0:07:14|
|122||Magnus Sheffield (USA) Rally Cycling||0:10:15|
|123||Pier Andre Cote (Can) Rally Cycling|
|124||Paul Penhoet (Fra) Groupama-FDJ Continental||0:15:12|
|125||Finn Fisher-Black (NZl) Jumbo-Visma Development Team|
|DNF||Norman Vahtra (Est) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||Sébastien Grignard (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Sylvain Moniquet (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Xandres Vervloesem (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Emmanuel Morin (Fra) Cofidis|
|DNF||Boris Vallee (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|DNF||Ruben Apers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Lionel Taminiaux (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Donavan Grondin (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Alan Boileau (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|DNF||Thibault Ferasse (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|DNF||Clément Carisey (Fra) Delko|
|DNF||Eduard-Michael Grosu (Rom) Delko|
|DNF||Christopher Lawless (GBr) Total Direct Energie|
|DNF||Jonas Iversby Hvideberg (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Julien Van Den Brande (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex|
|DNF||Alfdan De Decker (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex|
|DNF||Lennert Teugels (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex|
|DNF||Enzo Wouters (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex|
|DNF||Maxime De Poorter (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex|
|DNF||Maxwell De Broeder (Bel) LVIV Cycling Team|
|DNF||Brecht Stas (Bel) LVIV Cycling Team|
|DNF||Toni Franz (Ger) LVIV Cycling Team|
|DNF||Raphaël Kockelmann (Lux) LVIV Cycling Team|
|DNF||Bernardo Gonçalves (Por) LVIV Cycling Team|
|DNF||Mantas Januskevicius (Ltu) LVIV Cycling Team|
|DNF||Jordy Bouts (Bel) Beat Cycling|
|DNF||Piotr Havik (Ned) Beat Cycling|
|DNF||Robert Scott (GBr) Canyon DHB Sungod|
|DNF||Callum Macleod (GBr) Canyon DHB Sungod|
|DNF||Reece Wood (GBr) Canyon DHB Sungod|
|DNF||Daniel Tulett (GBr) Canyon DHB Sungod|
|DNF||Laurence Pithie (NZl) Groupama-FDJ Continental|
|DNF||Michel Heßmann (Ger) Jumbo-Visma Development Team|
|DNF||Maikel Zijlaard (Ned) SEG Racing Academy|
|DNF||Jesper Rasch (Ned) SEG Racing Academy|
|DNF||Gianmarco Garofoli (Ita) Development Team DSM|
|DNF||Enzo Leijnse (Ned) Development Team DSM|
As Features Editor, Patrick is responsible for Cyclingnews' long-form and in-depth output. Patrick joined Cyclingnews in 2015 as a staff writer after a work experience stint that included making tea and being sent to the Tour de Langkawi. Prior to that, he studied French and Spanish at university and went on to train as a journalist. Rides his bike to work but more comfortable on a football pitch.
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