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Tim Merlier wins Nokere Koerse

Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) sprinted to victory in Nokere Koerse, using his power to overtake the Groupama-FDJ lead out and blast up the Nokereberg to the win.

The Belgian sat on the Groupama-FDJ lead-out comfortably in fourth wheel behind Max Walscheid (Cofidis) and when he made his move, Walscheid could not match him and had to settle for second.

Arnaud de Lie (Lotto Soudal) came from a long way back, latching onto the wheel of Bert Van Lerberghe (Quickstep-AlphaVinyl) to take the final podium spot.

"This is my home race - for the public it was great, there were many people out there," Merlier said. "There was some pressure - when I raced it was like racing worlds in Leuven last year, there was so much atmosphere and everyone wanted me to win because I'm from here.

"I started the sprint early. This was my first time in Nokere Koerse and I watched the sprint of previous editions. I watched how Nacer Bouhanni won, he also went from pretty far.

"I thought I have to take my speed into the climb and get to that little turn to the left and just keep the watts high. I knew not many riders would be able to pass me."

How it unfolded

The peloton set out into a light headwind for the 189.8km of Nokere Koerse, with the first significant breakaway coming in the hellingen around Oudenaarde, where five riders formed the main escape of the first half of the race.

Robin Carpenter (Human Powered Health), Gil D'Heygere (Minerva Cycling), Adrien Lagree (B&B Hotels p/b KTM), Kobe Vanoverschelde (Tarteletto-Isorex) and Aaron Verwilst (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) worked to build a lead of three minutes but could not stretch it much more.

At the halfway point the race entered the closing circuits and as the breakaway began coming back there was a crash from Hugo Hofstetter, but he was quickly back up and into the peloton. On the Hoevenstraat with 89km to go there was a counter-attack from Iljo Keisse (Quickstep-AlphaVinyl), Laurens Rex (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Kévin Van Melsen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) that neutralised the breakaway as the peloton stretched across the cobbles. By the first ascent of the Nokereberg, the race was all back together.

The pace was high with 76km to go but that did not deter Casper van Uden (DSM) from launching a move. He inspired an attempt to bridge from Samuele Zoccarato (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) and Andreas Goeman (Tarteletto-Isorex). They made it to Van Uden with 16 seconds on the peloton and 72km still to go.

It was not a large enough advantage and soon the peloton reeled in first Zoccarato then Van Uden and Goeman. As the gap to the two remaining leaders dropped to 12 seconds, Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal) set out in pursuit and was joined by Lukas Postlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe).

A crash disrupted the chase, with Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani) falling into the culvert with Pier Andre-Cote (Human Powered Health) and Fabio van den Bossche (Alpecin-Fenix).

Van Uden and Goeman stretched their lead to 20 seconds on the Hoevenstraat cobbles with 60.5km to go, and soon Paaschens and Postlberger bridged across. The quartet held around 20 to 23 seconds as Alpecin-Fenix set a maintenance tempo in the bunch. At the top of the Nokereberg, they had 32 seconds in hand.

The gap stretched to nearly a minute but with 40km to go, it began going rapidly in the opposite direction thanks to the forcing of Israel-Premier Tech, Alepcin-Fenix, Groupama-FDJ and Quickstep-AlphaVinyl. It was down to just over 20 seconds but, sensing the breakaway would be easy to catch, the bunch let their gap grow again to 55 seconds.

Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal) envigorated the chase with 33km to go, halving the lead and with one lap to go, the four leaders crested the Nokereberg again with just 21 seconds and with 23km to go, it was all back together.

Not content to wait for the bunch sprint, Sam Watson (Groupama-FDJ) leapt away inside 20km to go and gained 30 seconds on the peloton. His TV time came to an end with 10km remaining.

UAE Team Emirates set a high pace in the final 2km for Pascal Ackermann but it was Groupama-FDJ won took the front on the cobbles, with Alpecin-Fenix's Merlier pouncing in the final turn to take the win.

Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 4:20:04
2Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Cofidis
3Arnaud De Lie (Bel) Lotto Soudal
4Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
5Bram Welten (Ned) Groupama-FDJ
6Rasmus Tiller (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
7Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
8Pierre Barbier (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
9Pascal Ackermann (Ger) UAE Team Emirates
10Jannik Steimle (Ger) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
11Ethan Vernon (GBr) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
12Jonas Koch (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
13Lewis Askey (GBr) Groupama-FDJ
14Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
15Milan Menten (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
16Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Israel-Premier Tech
17Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel-Premier Tech
18Søren Wærenskjold (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
19Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis
20Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
21Gerben Thijssen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
22Mauro Schmid (Swi) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
23Benjamin Declercq (Bel) Arkea-Samsic
24Laurenz Rex (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
25Barnabás Peák (Hun) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
26Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
27Miles Scotson (Aus) Groupama-FDJ
28Nickolas Zukowsky (Can) Human Powered Health
29Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
30Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
31André Carvalho (Por) Cofidis
32Patrick Gamper (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
33Niklas Märkl (Ger) Team DSM
34Scott Thwaites (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix
35Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
36Kévin Vauquelin (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
37Rui Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates
38BITTNER Pavel
39Cyril Gautier (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
40Jonas Iversby Hvideberg (Nor) Team DSM
41Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
42Cedric Beullens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
43Anders Skaarseth (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team 0:00:24
44Clément Davy (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:00:33
45Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:39
46Arne Marit (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:00:40
47Kevin Van Melsen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:00:42
48Rudy Barbier (Fra) Israel-Premier Tech
49Gilles De Wilde (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:00:44
50Sam Welsford (Aus) Team DSM
51Timothy Dupont (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB 0:00:46
52Taj Jones (Aus) Israel-Premier Tech
53Quentin Jauregui (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM 0:00:48
54Edward Planckaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
55Christophe Noppe (Bel) Arkea-Samsic 0:00:52
56FRIGO Marco 0:00:53
57PUPPIO Antonio
58Wesley Kreder (Ned) Cofidis
59WATSON Samuel 0:00:58
60Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:59
61Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:01:19
62VAN UDEN Casper 0:01:24
63Morten Hulgaard (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
64Floris De Tier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:01:49
65Vito Braet (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
66SAVER Kasper 0:02:17
67Felix Groß (Ger) UAE Team Emirates 0:02:28
68August Jensen (Nor) Human Powered Health 0:03:13
69Aaron Verwilst (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:03:15
70Tord Gudmestad (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team 0:03:18
71GOEMAN Andreas
72Miguel Heidemann (Ger) B&B Hotels-KTM
73JOSEPH Thomas
74Shane Archbold (NZl) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:03:21
75Markus Pajur (Est) Arkea-Samsic
76Jelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis
77Emils Liepins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo 0:03:28
78Julius Johansen (Den) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
79LEMMENS Sander
80Mathijs Paasschens (Ned) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB 0:04:09
81Maurice Ballerstedt (Ger) Alpecin-Fenix 0:04:21
82Daan Hoole (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
83Ruben Apers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:05:18
84Dayer Quintana (Col) Arkea-Samsic 0:05:39
85Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis 0:05:45
86DHAEYE Enrico 0:06:07
87VANOVERSCHELDE Kobe
88VAN DE KERKHOVE Brent 0:06:13
89Raphael Parisella (Can) B&B Hotels-KTM
90Pier Andre Cote (Can) Human Powered Health
91Adrien Lagree (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
92Jon Aberasturi Izaga (Spa) Trek-Segafredo
93Tom Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
94VAN SCHOOR Matthew
95Aaron Van Poucke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
96Guy Sagiv (Isr) Israel-Premier Tech
97Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
98Sébastien Grignard (Bel) Lotto Soudal
99DE POORTER Maxime
100Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
101VERHOFSTADT Thibau
102Luca Colnaghi (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
103Colin Joyce (USA) Human Powered Health
104Robin Carpenter (USA) Human Powered Health
105Iljo Keisse (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
106Stijn Steels (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
107VAN BREUSSEGEM Elias
108Finn Fisher-Black (NZl) UAE Team Emirates
109Tom Devriendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
110Leon Heinschke (Ger) Team DSM
111Samuele Zoccarato (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
112Joel Suter (Swi) UAE Team Emirates 0:06:21
113Alexander Krieger (Ger) Alpecin-Fenix
DNFMUSEEUW Stefano
DNFLukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFJohnatan Cañaveral Vargas (Col) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
DNFAlessandro Santaromita Villa (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
DNFLouis Blouwe (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
DNFWILLEMS Thimo
DNFEnrico Zanoncello (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
DNFD´HEYGERE Gil
DNFLasse Norman Hansen (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFMartin Laas (Est) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFFabio Van Den Bossche (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
DNFMatthew Walls (GBr) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFThomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFMichael Schwarzmann (Ger) Lotto Soudal
DNFMarc Brustenga Masague (Spa) Trek-Segafredo
DNFJakob Egholm (Den) Trek-Segafredo
DNFGage Hecht (USA) Human Powered Health
DNFMichel Ries (Lux) Arkea-Samsic
DNSCees Bol (Ned) Team DSM
DNSJordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe

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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.

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