Patrick Lefevere backs Tim Merlier on proving critics wrong: "That idea was only entertained by a few sour keyboard heroes"

Although he was never very controversial, Tim Merlier took personally the comments regarding his inability to win late into Grand Tours or difficult races. The Belgian rider is a brilliant sprinter who frequently wins early on in the races he participates, and so for him it was extra important to win in the final week of the Giro d'Italia last Thursday. Patrick Lefevere, manager of Soudal - Quick-Step, has shared his opinion on the matter.

“Tim Merlier has put an end to the vacuous criticism that he can only win sprints in the first week of a Grand Tour," Lefevere said on a column for Het Nieuwsblad. "That idea was only entertained by a few sour keyboard heroes, but it's nice that they have also lost their last argument for speaking disparagingly about him.” Merlier felt like he had a point to prove, and he managed to do so on stage 18 as he directly beat Jonathan Milan on the penultimate bunch sprint of the Giro. After having won the first, on stage 3, Merlier achieves a goal that was important to him.

A specialist on one-day races and the flat sprints, Merlier has the experience on the cobbled classics but is quite close to the traditional pure sprinter. He is a rider that struggles, but specially in the past has struggled with the climbs and so his big abilities to beat the best of the world in the sprints usually would come early on the stage-races. He has also gained a reputation for frequently winning the first bunch sprint of most races he participates in.

Soudal - Quick-Step were able to win a stage with Julian Alaphilippe earlier in the race, and were thrilled with their second win of the Giro: “Tim is great: a great guy who almost never misses an appointment. No offense, but with sprinters it is usually me, myself and I. Tim is different,”

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