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Giro d'Italia

Tim Merlier ruled out of Giro d’Italia with elbow injury

The Belgian sprinter says he's had interest from Patrick Lefevere but that he hasn't been working on a new contract.

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Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) will not be teaming up with Mathieu van der Poel at the Giro d’Italia in May after an injury has forced the Belgian to pull the plug on his participation.

Merlier was left with a hole in his right elbow after crashing at Paris-Roubaix while trying to avoid another rider, who had changed his line to avoid a pothole on the Gruson sector of pavé. He underwent surgery on his elbow that evening.

Initially, Merlier had hoped he would be able to recover in time to make the start of the Giro d’Italia at the end of next week. However, he had to accept it wasn’t going to happen.

“I went cycling for two hours on Saturday, three and a half on Sunday. I was feeling positive. But Monday I had to return after an hour in the rain, stiffened from the cold. I couldn’t even put on my rain jacket. After consultation with team doctor Pieterjan Debbaut, we made the decision on Tuesday,” Merlier said in an interview with Dutch website Wielerflits.

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This year would have been Merlier’s second Giro d’Italia appearance after he made his grand tour debut at the race last year. He was due to lineup alongside Van der Poel at the event with the pair sharing each other’s leadout duties.

Merlier, who has had three victories so far this season, won the second stage of the 2021 Giro before abandoning at the end of the first week.

Even without a longer recovery period, Merlier says that he’d have struggled to find his peak for the Italian grand tour. He is fairly pragmatic about missing the race and says that a start at the Tour de France later in the year could still be on the cards.

“Without an altitude training camp and with the after-effects of the injury, I would not have my full potential in the Giro d’Italia. Plus, I have to take antibiotics until the end of this week,” Merlier said. “As far as injuries are concerned, I’ve had hardly any setbacks so far as a rider. I was even put under anesthesia for the first time on Sunday evening. But it is what it is. It’s not the end of the world.

“I can now turn the switch and prepare for the Belgian championship. And possibly the Tour de France, if the team management selects me. A second Tour participation is not excluded, I was told about that.”

In the interview, Merlier was asked about reports that Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere is interested in signing him. Speaking with Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure, Lefevere had hinted at his interest, noting that the Belgian sprinter would be out of contract at the end of the year.

Merlier said that there had been some interest but that he was leaving the details of any potential move to his management.

“I don’t deny that. But in all sincerity, I’ve wanted to focus on the spring in the last few weeks and haven’t been working on a new contract yet,” he said. “I have every confidence that my management will now gradually start working on this. Is money the most important? I’m turning 30, so the finances play a part. It would be stupid to lie about that. But the sport is more important to me.”