Belgian sprinter Tim Merlier is adamant about his inclusion in next year’s Tour de France. He believes that both he and lead-out man Bert Van Lerberghe can provide significant support to Remco Evenepoel in his quest for victory. In an interview with RTBF, Merlier expressed confidence that their selection would be beneficial in aiding Evenepoel to win the Tour.
Merlier expressed his disagreement with the team’s decisions, which has been rumoured to exclude a sprinter from the Tour de France roster, stating that this has caused him distress. He argued that, especially in the context of a challenging gravel stage, both Van Lerberghe and he possess the qualities necessary to protect Evenepoel and aid in his positioning. Merlier acknowledged that there are other team members capable of this, but emphasized that their leader requires more than just climbers.
Merlier drew attention to the rouleurs of Jumbo-Visma, who successfully controlled the peloton with their pace-setting, delivering their leader to the base of climbs. He remains convinced that selecting him and Van Lerberghe would be a strategic move to assist Evenepoel in clinching the Tour victory.
The Sprinter’s Strategy for Team Dialogue
Merlier stated: “It’s not in my nature to stir up trouble, but I’m preparing to have a serious conversation.” He disclosed his reluctance to participate in the Giro or the Vuelta, citing the close proximity to the classics for the Giro and the distant scheduling of the Vuelta in the season. His focus is solely on the Tour de France. Merlier plans to engage in dialogue with team manager Patrick Lefevere and potentially Evenepoel himself. He intends to make the case that it’s possible for the team to target the general classification while also being equipped to triumph in sprint finishes.