Cycling news - Alpecin-Fenix's Tim Merlier takes win in demanding Benelux Tour opening stage
The opening stage of the Benelux Tour was hit by strong crosswinds which turned a flat course into a demanding slog on Monday. Victory was taken in a sprint finish by Belgian Alpecin-Fenix rider Tim Merlier, with second place going to Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious), and third to Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
Benelux Tour 2021 Highlights: Catch up with everything that happened during opening stage
Alpecin-Fenix’s Tim Merlier won stage one of the Benelux Tour as he emerged from a sprint breakaway to cross the finish line victorious.
The Belgian rider was challenged at the death by Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious), who took second. Third place went to Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
The race was blighted by strong crosswinds which led to different groups emerging over the course of the race. A demanding 169.6km course may have offered few, if any, climbs but the strong winds were demanding enough.
There was disappointment for Remco-Evenepoel, Hodeg’s teammate, as a broken front wheel forced him to finish around a minute behind in a chasing pack that also featured Team Ineos’ Geraint Thomas, Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroen), and a returning Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma). Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) crashed and fell two and a half minutes behind.
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As the stage came to an end there were two laps of a 12km circuit to negotiate with three sprints offering the chance for bonus points, which were taken by Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious), Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), who gained four seconds each.
"It was extremely hectic," said Merlier after the race.
"I don't know how, but it just happened. I had to do a sprint for that echelon. From then on I knew that I had to play along and not let myself be surprised on the crucial points.
"I felt good in the final, but it was difficult. There was also an attack, but Gianni [Vermeersch] was the ideal man for that. He could respond to anyone. In the end everything worked out and it is a great victory for the team."
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