A fist-pumping Alexander Kristoff at Scheldeprijs

Well, that was weird: Kristoff solo and Merlier backwards at Scheldeprijs

A curious day out, to say the least.

by Jonny Long

photography by Getty Images

An odd edition of Scheldeprijs, the race usually culminating in a bunch sprint, instead saw an elite group containing most of the fast men clip off the front in the first hour as echelons ripped the peloton apart.

More peculiar, although becoming less unexpected with each passing race, was that Quick-Step AlphaVinyl and Fabio Jakobsen were absent as their spring Classics misery continues.

Together in a group off the front, Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix), and Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) seemed primed to face a much less congested gallop for the line – if only Kristoff had stuck to the script.

Instead, Bennett was detached, either his tyres tired or his legs, before Stavanger Stallion attacked across the cobbles into a headwind with less than 8 km to go.

While the chasers regrouped, no one would make the catch. The Norwegian crossed the line with 24 seconds to spare ahead of Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sam Welsford (DSM), the latter of whom took DSM’s first podium of what has so far been a very lackluster season.

For Intermarché, they’ve never had it so good. Kristoff’s result marks their sixth win of the season, the most they’ve ever had at this point in the year, and they are clearly enjoying their sophomore WorldTour campaign.

Curious statistics and an age-defying Kristoff aside (does this hint he has the legs for Roubaix in ten day’s time?), Scheldeprijs 2022 may also be remembered for more than who crossed the line first, thanks to Merlier – who decided to turn around after the finish line and make his way back down the road as riders continued to come through.

The Belgian quickly did the math as a dozen riders sprinter towards him and he dismounted and swiftly hopped over the chest-high barriers.

That’s bike racing. It’s not supposed to make sense.

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