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Merlier makes merry in first stage

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MUSCAT: New father Tim Merlier of Soudal Quick-Step made a promising start to the 12th edition of Tour of Oman by claiming the opening stage on Saturday.

The Belgian national champion completed the 147.4 km Stage 1 from Al Rustaq Fort to Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre in three hours and 31 minutes.

"I became a father 11 days ago, so today’s result is so special. This victory is for my son. It’s important to win early in the season,’’ Merlier, who celebrated the win with a ‘rock the baby’ gesture, said.

Merlier claimed the win after a strong uphill sprint to get the best of David Dekker (Arkea-Samsic) and Axel Zingle (Cofidis).

Astana Qazaqstan’s Mark Cavendish was well-placed in the final kilometre after his team positioned up front. However, the Soudal-QuickStep team then took over to set-up Merlier and Cavendish was swamped to finish 21st.

The Belgian cyclist tasted his first victory on the road since joining Soudal Quick-Step in the off-season. He had won a cyclo-cross in January.

The Stage 1 win enabled Merlier to top the charts in the stage and general and points classifications, getting the red and green jerseys. Dekker (+04) joined him second on both tables with Zingle taken over by ‘most active rider’ Jeron Meijers (Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team +05) in general classification. Dekker won the best young rider jersey after the first stage.


In the only opportunity for sprinters this week, Rodrigo Alvarez (Burgos-BH), Said al Rahbi (Oman National Team) and Meijers got in front with Soudal-QuickStep and Astana Qazaqstan leading the chase.

The attackers cover 42.7 km in the first hour and Alvarez dominates the first intermediate sprint of the day (60.1 km). Astana Qazaqstan also worked at the front of the peloton as they tried to deliver a first opportunity to sprint for Mark Cavendish.

The short Fanja climb mid-stage split the break, with Al Rahbi dropped. Then Meijers distanced Alvarez to take the KOM points and pushed on alone. Meijers took three more points in the intermediate sprint (101 km), followed by Al Rahbi and Alvarez. The two chasers are quickly caught by the bunch, trailing by 1’50’’. Bora-Hansgrohe also joined the chase and Meijers reeled in with 16 km to go.

Then, Lotto-Dstny, UAE Team Emirates and AG2R-Citroen all moved to the front to position their sprinters.

Astana Qazaqstan cushioned Cavendish with three riders in the front until two kilometres to go. In the final 500 metres, Soudal came up from the left to take control of the sprint despite an effort from AG2R Citroen.


1. Tim Merlier (BEL) Soudal Quick-Step 03:31:00

2. David Dekker (NED) Team Arkea-Samsic + 00

3. Axel Zingle (FRA) Cofidis + 00

4. Arne Marit (BEL) Intermarché-Circus-Wanty + 00

5. Kristoffer Halvorsen (NOR) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team + 00

6. Pascal Ackermann (GER) UAE Team Emirates + 00

7. Matthew Walls (GBR) BORA-hansgrohe + 00

8. Alexander Salby (DEN) Bingoal WB + 00

9. Max Kanter (GER) Movistar Team + 00

10. Rudiger Selig (GER) Lotto Dstny + 00


1. Tim Merlier (BEL) Soudal Quick-Step 03:30:50

2. David Dekker (NED) Team Arkea-Samsic + 04

3. Jeroen Meijers (NED) Terengganu Polygon CT + 05

4. Axel Zingle (FRA) Cofidis + 06

5. Rodrigo Alvarez (ESP) Burgos-BH + 06

6. Arne Marit (BEL) Intermarche-Circus-Wanty + 10

7. Kristoffer Halvorsen (NOR) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team + 10

8. Pascal Ackermann (GER) UAE Team Emirates + 10

9. Matthew Walls (GBR) BORA-hansgrohe + 10

10 Alexander Salby (DEN) Bingoal WB + 10

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