Tim Merlier secures second stage win in four days at UAE Tour

Jay Vine of UAE Team Emirates retains leader's red jersey after exciting sprint finish in Dubai

Soudal-Quick Step Team's Belgian cyclist Tim Merlier wins Stage 4 of the UAE Tour, in Dubai, on February 22, 2024. AFP
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Tim Merlier celebrated his second win in the UAE Tour by taking victory in the Dubai stage on Thursday.

The Soudal Quick-Step’s Belgian rider took the lead with just over 100 metres to go, winning the sprint to the line ahead of Arvid De Kleijn and Olav Kooij, after the 168-kilometre stretch from Dubai Police Officers Club to Dubai Harbour.

The top three spots in general classification (GC) remain unchanged with UAE Team Emirates’ Jay Vine keeping the leader's red jersey for the second successive day.

“It would be nice to win all four flat stages but the other sprinters will make it hard for me,” Merlier said at the post-race press conference.

“But I already won two stages here. I’m looking forward to more but it’s not easy. My teammate Ilan Van Wilder crashed but I avoided it.

“My teammates put me in a good spot. It looks like the train is on the rails. Because the wind was coming from the left side, I saw Olav [Kooij] going and luckily, I found my way and from there, it was straight forward to the line.

“We rode yesterday for Ilan and we show every day that we are a very strong team. Bert Van Lerberghe and I have known each other since we were 12 years old. It’s a nice story. Last year we came together in this team. I’m happy to have a good lead-out man.”

A crash three kilometres out from the finish saw a handful of riders go down in the middle of the bunch, including most of the Bora-Hansgrohe train which scuppered Sam Welsford's chances, but most of the sprinters and their lead-outs made it safely to the finish.

“It was not easy. Maybe it looks like it, but sprinting is never easy,” added Merlier.

“I will try to win again, but it won’t be easy, so I’m just going to try. The train is on the rails as we say in the team, so I’m looking forward to the next two days to work together.”

Vine, who was runner-up in the individual time trial in Stage 2 and also finished second in the first of the two mountain stages on top of Jebel Jaish on Wednesday, came home safely to maintain his overall lead.

“Nothing really changed since we set the strategy for this race. It’s just a little bit different for me to be the rider in the lead. It’s pretty special and Dubai is a special place to be in for this,” said the Australian UAE Team Emirates rider.

“During the first part of the stage, it was pretty relaxed, so I took time to look at the buildings but further on, I stayed focused with my teammates to stick together as a team.

“I always have Vegard [Stake Laengen] close to me in case something wrong happens. Once we reached the last kilometres, I felt relieved and stress-free. It’s a very nice race to be in this position. It’s a shame not to win the bunch sprint in Dubai like last year but our priority remains to win the overall.”

Stage 4 results:

1. Tim Merlier (BEL) Soudal Quick-Step, 4 hrs 1 min 47 sec

2. Arvid De Kleijn (NED) Tudor Pro Cycling Team, st

3. Olav Kooij (NED) Team Visma Lease a Bike, st

General classification:

1. Jay Vine (AUS) UAE Team Emirates

2. Ben O'Connor (AUS) Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team, at 11 sec

3. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates, at 13 sec

Updated: February 24, 2024, 3:55 PM