Tim Merlier set for showdown talks with Lefevere and Evenepoel over Tour de France selection

Sprinter argues his case for Tour selection in the Belgian press

Clock08:59, Saturday 11th November 2023
Tim Merlier leads Remco Evenepoel at the UAE Tour in 2023

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Tim Merlier leads Remco Evenepoel at the UAE Tour in 2023

Tim Merlier has reinforced his desire to ride the Tour de France in 2024, insisting that he has the qualities to support Remco Evenepoel through several key stages, and that he can offer Soudal QuickStep another outlet to success through his sprinting.

The Belgian joined Patrick Lefevere’s team at the start of 2023. He won 12 individual races but was overlooked for all three Grand Tours. The team was built around Evenepoel at both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, while Fabio Jakobsen was given a sprinter’s role at the Tour de France. With Jakobsen now off the team for 2024, Merlier is the strongest sprinter on paper within the team.

The complication comes in the fact that Evenepoel is targeting the overall at the Tour de France next July, and according to Merlier the Giro d’Italia comes too close to the spring Classics and the Vuelta is too late in the season.

“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,” Merlier told RTBF.

“I read and heard that no sprinter should be allowed to participate and that hurt. I don't really agree with this decision. Especially because there is a difficult gravel stage on the programme.”

Merlier also advocated for the services of Bert Van Lerberghe to be included at the Tour de France.

“He and I have all the qualities to protect Remco well 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. Watch how the Jumbo-Visma rouleurs lead the peloton with their train, up to the foot of each pass. I remain convinced that selecting me and Bert would be a good idea to help Remco win the Tour.”

Merlier has only raced three Grand Tours during his career but has won a stage in the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France - both in 2021. He failed to finish both races but at that point in his career he didn’t have a Grand Tour leader to work for. 

Lefevere has recruited several riders in the off-season but only Mikel Landa and Gianni Moscon look like instant additions for a possible GC challenge at the Tour.

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