Under sunny skies and in dry conditions, Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) won Le Samyn from a long, drawn-out drag, coming from the main bunch with a late-to-launch attack.
Teammate Mathieu van der Poel, who did the lion’s share of work in the final 4 kilometers, snapped his right shifter clamp just inside of the red kite at 1km to go. The four-time world cyclocross champion managed to stay upright and finish safely in the bunch.
Van der Poel rode with this hands next to the stem, displaying his bike-handling skills at high speed in a big bunch, to finish safely.
Have a look at the last km en @MerlierTim's strong sprint!
— Alpecin-Fenix Cycling Team (@AlpecinFenix) March 2, 2021
Attacks flew throughout the day, with a foursome that included American Joey Rosskopf (Rally Cycling) managing to get as much as 75 seconds on the group, however this break was doomed to be caught.
Just after the catch was made, U.S. rider Magnus Sheffield (Rally Cycling), third at the 2019 world junior road championships, crashed along with Rally teammate Stephen Bassett. Both were later able to finish.
Seeing opportunity in the tempo of the main group, world hour record holder Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka-Assos) took a flyer at 25km to go, and was joined by Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-Up Nation) several kilometers later.
The two strong riders posed a threat, and Deceuninck-Quick-Step and Alpecin-Fenix went to the front to keep control of the gap.
Van der Poel used every inch of available road, sidewalk, and even some grass to keep an eye on the escapees.
Vanmarcke, at the front, suffered a flat front tire with 12km to go, and it appeared his day was done.
Campenaerts dangled out front for a few kilometers longer, and as he was caught, teammate Lukasz Wisniowski took a flier with Deceuninck-Quick-Step and Alpecin-Fenix still giving chase.
Van der Poel and four others, including Florian Sénéchal of Deceuninck-Quick-Step appeared to have control of a small group, until Wisniowski attacked again.
While van der Poel gave chase in the final 1,500m, it appeared he snapped his handlebars as the group came back together.
A big bunch of nearly three dozen was back together. It appeared that Vanmarcke had made his way back into the group and was near the front when the sprinters ratcheted up the pace.
Launching early were Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) and previous winner Hugo Hofstetter (Israel Start-Up Nation).
Timing his late attack out of the main group was Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) who came from way back to take the win, even with an almost-too-early victory salute.
Le Samyn 2021 results
- Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix), 4:34:29
- Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), at s.t.
- Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux), at s.t.
- Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-Up Nation), at s.t.
- Hugo Hoftetter (Israel Start-Up Nation), at s.t.
- Amaury Vapiot (Team Arkéa Samsic), at s.t.
- John Degenkolb (Lotto Soudal), at s.t.
- Dimitri Claeys (Team Qhubeka-Assos), at s.t.
- Timothy Dupont (Bingoal – Wallonie Bruxelles), at s.t.
- Milan Menten (Bingoal – Wallonie Bruxelles), at s.t.