By all expectations, Remco Evenepoel will contest the Tour for the first time next year. At Soudal – Quick-Step they will have to find out with which teammates the world time trial champion should go to France. Tim Merlier hopes to be one of them.
The faster Merlier has only ridden one Grand Tour in the past two seasons: the 2022 Vuelta. So it will already be three years next season since Merlier contested the Tour again. In 2021 he won the third stage with the finish in Pontivy, in the colors of Alpecin-Fenix.
This year and last year, Fabio Jakobsen was preferred on Merlier, but the Dutchman will drive for Team DSM next year. However, Evenepoel is aiming for a good ranking in the Tour and so a place for Merlier seems like a utopia. Unless…
“I read and heard that no sprinter should be allowed to participate and that hurt,” said Merlier at RTBF. “I don’t really agree with this decision. Especially because there is a difficult gravel stage on the program (stage nine to be precise, ed.). Bert Van Lerberghe and I have all the qualities to properly protect Remco and guide him in terms of positioning. Agreed, there are also other riders in the team who are capable of doing this work, but our leader does not only need climbers. See how the rouleurs from Jumbo-Visma to take the peloton in tow with their train, to the foot of each col. I remain convinced that selecting me and Bert would be a good idea to help Remco win the Tour.”
Merlier says that participating in the Giro and/or the Vuelta means little. The Giro because “too soon after the classics” and the Vuelta “because at the end of the season”. The former Belgian champion is therefore clear. “I want to go to the Tour. It’s not my style to make scandals, but I plan to have a good conversation with Patrick Lefevere. And perhaps also with Remco. I want to explain to them that it is possible to go to the Tour with a team that is focused on the general classification, but is also capable of winning bunch sprints.”