VKA

Tim Merlier new Belgian cycling champion

Tim Merlier can look forward to one year in the Belgian tricolour jersey as the new Belgian champion in road cycling. In Ghent, Merlier won the Belgian championships in a bunch sprint, beating Timothy Dupont and favourite Wout Van Aert. 

The fast course in the final, with laps in and around Ghent, made sure nobody was able to break away. The young Belgian Remco Evenepoel, dubbed the "new Merckx" by some, made the bravest attempt as the motor of a breakaway with four and then three, but was gobbled up some 14 kilometres from the end. 

In the bunch sprint, Tim Merlier (Corendon Circus) was by far the fastest man. Wout Van Aert, who had won the time trial on Friday and was aiming for the double, was bad positioned for the final sprint but managed to come back to third place to claim the bronze, just ahead of veteran Philippe Gilbert. Gilbert was trying to overcome his immense disappointment after not being selected for the Tour de France by his Deceuninck-Quick-Step team. 

26-year-old Tim Merlier, who hails from East Flanders, had already won a Belgian title in cyclocross.

In the women's race, it was Jesse Vandenbulcke who claimed the gold. The 23-year-old advanced three fellow breakaway riders in the sprint. She beat Ann-Sophie Duyck with a last-gasp effort, with Julie Van De Velde taking the bronze. 

 (photo below: pictures of the start of the men's race in the Ghent city centre, at the city hall and the belfry).