Tim Merlier “wasted years in cyclocross” according to former coach: "The problem was that nobody believed in him"

Now widely regarded as one of the fastest sprinters in the peloton, Tim Merlier spent much of his formative years as a professional competing in cyclocross. According to his former coach, Mario De Clercq though, much of this was time wasted.

"Tim is a local and got on well with my son. He sat with us a lot and I immediately saw that he was very explosive," De Clercq recalls of Merlier's humble beginnings, in conversation with Het Nieuwsblad. "Then when he rode in the U23s and fully matured, it became even more obvious that he was more explosive than other riders. And especially in the first metres."

As mentioned though, it wasn't sprinting on the road that Merlier initially found success, but rather in the muddy fields of cyclocross. "But Tim doesn't have the body of a cyclocross rider and the explosiveness he has on the road, he can't make full use of in the field," De Clercq recalls. "That's when I tried to convince him to switch to the road anyway."

"The problem was that nobody believed in him. I visited many teams to say I had a good sprinter in the team, but I always got the same answer: 'You only ride smaller races.' and 'Is he going to be able to cross the finish line in a tougher race?' We then decided to keep him as a cyclocross rider and give him a chance here and there on the road," De Clercq continues. "Then he ended up with Van Aert's then team, Vérandas Willems-Crelan. I feared the worst at one point but then Christoph Roodhooft came along and wanted Merlier in his team. I then made constant phone calls to Tim and Christoph and that was his salvation in the end. I was really very happy."

Merlier won three stages of the 2024 Giro d'Italia

Performing at Soudal - Quick-Step nowadays, Merlier was a star of the recent Giro d'Italia, winning three stages, including the final stage on the cobbles of Rome. "He is almost 32 and I think he will continue to win sprints for at least three more years. After that, he can even continue as a lead-out because he will be good at that too. So we certainly haven't heard the last of Tim Merlier yet," analyses his former coach.

"Occasionally, we still send each other messages, but I prefer that we have a barbecue or go out for something to eat together," De Clercq concludes. "We live close to each other and I like that we still have a good relationship despite the fact that he is now a real world star. He's a really good guy both on and off the bike."

Place comments



More comments

You are currently seeing only the comments you are notified about, if you want to see all comments from this post, click the button below.

Show all comments