Ilan Van Wilder became the 104th different rider in Soudal Quick-Step’s 21-year history to get a win for the team following an electric finish in Merzig, where stage 1 of the Deutschland Tour concluded. Twenty-four hours after Ethan Vernon’s success in the prologue, Van Wilder made it two in a row for the Wolfpack in Germany and donned the red jersey.
Punctuated by numerous hills, the last two of which were stacked in the final twenty kilometers, the 179km journey from Sankt Wendel to Merzig ended up having the GC contenders in the spotlight, despite a fierce effort of the teams who were hoping to see everything come down to a bunch sprint. The fireworks came inside the last ten kilometers, when Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) jumped clear, prompting a response from Ilan, and a couple of seconds later, Felix Grossschartner (UAE Team Emirates).
The newly-formed trio carried a small gap over the top of the climb – where Ilan scored three bonus seconds – but they worked well together and arrived on the finishing stretch together, just a handful of seconds ahead of the chasers. Ilan kept an eye on the others as he patiently waited to make his move, surging clear with only 150 meters to go and putting some daylight into his opponents for a victory he will always remember.
Van Wilder was joined in the top ten of the stage by another Soudal Quick-Step rider, Ethan Vernon. Eighth on the line, the British sprinter remained leader of the points classification with three days to go at the Deutschland Tour.
“I can’t really put into words what it means to win for the first time as a pro and to do this in the jersey of Soudal Quick-Step. When I started my sprint I just pushed incredibly hard without looking back, because I wanted so badly to take the stage, and all I had in mind was to cross the line first. It’s a special feeling to win a race and I love it!”
“The speed was quite high in the final 30 kilometers as a lot of teams tried to drop the sprinters. On the last climb I just stayed attentive and followed the moves. Sivakov put the hammer down, I joined him, and then Grosschartner bridged across. We shared the workload and rode like three engines going full gas, and in the end, we managed to hold off the chasers. Chapeau to the two guys who were with me, they put in a solid effort as well. For us as a team it’s been a great race so far and we’ll try now to defend the jersey”, said Ilan after Soudal Quick-Step’s 42nd victory of the season.