July 16, 2024

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Tim Merlier is not afraid of uneven sprints: “I worked hard to climb better”

Tim Merlier is not afraid of uneven sprints: “I worked hard to climb better”

Saturday, May 4, 2024 at 11:15 am

interview This season’s Giro d’Italia may have the strongest field of runners in years. Well, no Jasper Philipsen to start, but with Olaf Koeg, Jonathan Milan, Fabio Jacobsen, Caleb Ewan, Caden Groves and Tim Merlier, there is no shortage of fast men. The latter is Soudal Quick-Step’s best chance for a stage victory.

Merlier is aiming for stage wins in team sprints, but he also believes in La Maglia Ciclamino. “We will already know a lot about the value ratios after the first week. There are many strong sprinters who can leave their mark on the sprint races. Jonathan Millan won the points jersey last year. This year he also came across strongly in Tirreno-Adriatico. For me he is the favorite in purple.

But if Merlier wants to be eligible to wear the shirt, he will have to finish the season. Something that wasn’t evident during his previous three (only!) Grand Tours. “I don’t have a lot of experience in the Grand Tours yet, because I only started focusing on the road after my first Belgian title in 2019. In my second year I got my chance in the Giro, but after the team decision I had to come back home and then also participate in the Tour The following year, the Vuelta was planned, I actually finished it and last year I was not selected for any Tour from now on.

Climbing capabilities
Has Merlier worked extra on his climbing abilities? “After Paris-Roubaix, I initially took a few days of rest, but then I went to Mount Teide in Tenerife with my family to prepare myself properly for the upcoming climb. I hope that made me a little stronger. On the other hand, I can still do the training on “Highlands for another year, but I’ll never be a good climber (laughs). I’m just trying to be good enough not to get into trouble but it’ll happen anyway.”

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In order to run even, Merlier will often have to survive on the slope. How many opportunities does he see for himself? “I have to check the road book more carefully so I can discuss this in detail. But the legs will talk. It won’t be a big problem for the first few days, but as the race progresses – as the legs become increasingly full of lactate – it will become more difficult.” It is difficult to estimate in advance, it takes three weeks, but of course I want to run as much as possible.

Van Lierberg
One thing is certain: whether in the mountains or in the sprints, Merlier will be able to rely on the regular progress of his and his good friend Bert van Lerburgh. “It’s our first big tour together, but we have often shown that we do well together. In the mountains, maybe he will try to release me, to show that he is the stronger of us. This is always a race match between us (laughs).”