"Remco doesn't need the support of an entire team in the Tour" - Could Tim Merlier join Evenepoel in Soudal - Quick-Step's Tour de France lineup?

After missing out on selection for all three of Soudal - Quick-Step's Grand Tour lineups in 2023, could Tim Merlier be heading to a second successive Grand Tour and ride the Tour de France alongside Remco Evenepoel later this month?

The form is certainly there for Merlier. The Belgian took three stage wins at the 2024 Giro d'Italia and spent some time in the Maglia Ciclamino. Since the Giro, wins have continued as well, winning two stages of the recent Baloise Belgium Tour in his homeland, beating arch rival and reigning Green Jersey winner at the Tour de France, Jasper Philipsen in the process.

"I don't think Remco needs the support of an entire team in the Tour," says the experienced Sporza analyst and Belgian cycling expert, Jose De Cauwer. "Remco is aiming for the top 5 and the podium. He can do this perfectly by aligning his race with some other favourites."

As such, a full Soudal - Quick-Step team based solely around supporting Evenepoel is not needed De Cauwer argues, giving Merlier an opportunity for a Tour de France return. "If Remco gets an opportunity to grab time, he will have to do it on his own," De Cauwer continues. "If he has to fight back from a lost position, Remco needs a team. But in such a situation, Mikel Landa is the only one who has the ability uphill to be able to help his leader."

Nevertheless, De Cauwer admits it's unlikely Merlier will be called upon, especially at such short notice. "That could have been done. You could have perfectly sent Merlier to the Tour with Van Lerberghe as the lead-out. But now it is too late," the Sporza analyst concludes. "It would be a poisoned gift for Merlier to suddenly have to participate in the Tour. The difficulty of those first Tour stages in Italy would be very painful for Merlier."

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