VN news ticker: Tim Merlier takes third sprint win at Bredene-Koksijde; Alpecin-Fenix out of Volta a Catalunya

Here's the news making headlines for Saturday, March 20.

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Tim Merlier dominates sprint to take Bredene-Koksijde Classic

Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) launched a grinding 250-meter move to blow away the field at Bredene-Koksijde Classic on Friday. The win is the Belgian’s third in a prolific season that has also seen him victorious at Le Samyn and GP Monseré having made similar long-range, muscling sprints.

Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Florian Sénéchal (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) filled out the podium Friday.

“In the end I looked backward, which I really shouldn’t have done. It happens automatically and drives me crazy,” Merlier said. “But then I saw I had a few lengths and I went flat-out. I am happy because last year I did not reach this level.”

Alpecin-Fenix out of Volta a Catalunya due to COVID positives in team staff

While Merlier was winning in Belgium, his Alpecin-Fenix teammates had to withdraw from next week’s Volta a Catalunya after three staffers tested positive for COVID-19.

“Three members of Alpecin-Fenix recently returned positive test results. In order to minimize the risk of spreading the virus, it has been decided to isolate and quarantine all the team’s staff that were supposed to travel to the Volta,” read a statement from the team Friday.

Mathieu van der Poel was not scheduled to race the Spanish tour as he places full focus on the cobbled classics.

Alpecin-Fenix was similarly forced to withdraw from the UAE Tour last month after a member of the team staff at the race in the Emirates returned a positive coronavirus result.