Soudal-QuickStep may be moving away from focussing on the Classics and sprints in favour of supporting Remco Evenepoel’s Grand Tour ambitions, but the team’s sprinter Tim Merlier is still putting forward his case to make next year’s Tour de France squad.
The Belgian didn’t race any Grand Tours last year and hasn’t taken on the Tour de France since 2021 as the team instead took Fabio Jakobsen this summer. His participation next July is up in the air, with QuickStep very unlikely to take any form of sprint train to France.
Instead, the team will focus on Remco Evenepoel‘s GC ambitions with the likes of Mikel Landa, Julian Alaphilippe, and Mattia Cattaneo set to support the 23-year-old superstar.
Merlier laid out his case for inclusion in the team’s squad next summer in an interview with RTBF.
“I read and heard that no sprinter would be allowed to come along and that hurt,” he said.
“I don’t really agree with this decision. Especially because there is a difficult gravel stage 9 on the programme. Bert Van Lerberghe 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 capable of doing this work, but our leader doesn’t only need climbers. Look how Jumbo-Visma’s rouleurs take the peloton in tow with their train, up to the foot of each mountain.
“I remain convinced that selecting me and Bert would be a good idea to help Remco win the Tour.”
Merlier’s most recent Grand Tour participation was the 2022 Vuelta a España, while he has stage wins at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 2021 to his name. This season he picked up 11 wins, including five at WorldTour level across the UAE Tour, Paris-Nice, and the Tour de Pologne.
If he does make the team next July, he’d surely be largely left to his own devices in sprint finishes after key parts of the famous QuickStep lead-out train – Tim Declercq, Michael Mørkøv, and Rémi Cavagna – are moving elsewhere this winter.
Merlier stated that his preference is to take on the Tour, rather than the Giro (“too soon after the Classics”) or Vuelta (“it’s at the end of the season”), next year. He said he’d talk to Evenepoel and team boss Patrick Lefevere about it.
“I want to go to the Tour,” he said. “It’s not my style to make scandals, but I intend to have a good talk with Patrick Lefevere. And maybe also with Remco.
“I want to explain to them that it is possible to go to the Tour with a team focussed on the general classification, but also…