As it happened: 2023 Nokere Koerse men
- Danilith Nokere Koerse 2023 - Race Home
- Nokere Koerse: Lotte Kopecky takes emotional victory in women's race
- Who's racing where this week
Belgian National Champion Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep) wins for a second successive time on home soil.
Nokere Koerse: Tim Merlier wins men's one-day race
Hello and welcome to our coverage of the men's edition of 2023 Danilith Nokere Koerse.
113 kilometres to go
To bring you straight up to speed, we're 80 kilometres into the race and there's a seven-man break up the road, containing Alex Colman (Flanders-Baloise), Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal-WB), Enekoitz Azparren (Euskatel-Euskadi), Adam De Vos (Human Powered Health), Rory Townsend (Bolton Equities Black Spoke), Etienne Van Empel (Corratec) and Jonas Geens (Tartaletto-Isolex).
Victory in the women's Denilith Nokere Koerse earlier today went to Lotte Kopecky in a hugely emotional win, which you can read about here.
95 kilometres to go
The seven have a gap of roughly two minutes, with DSM and Soudal-QuickStep leading the chase behind.
The seven attacked roughly some 30 kilometres into the 193 kilometre event. One non-starter, Mitchel Fitzsimons (Bolton Equities Black Spoke) and one key abandon so far, Alberto Dainese (DSM) after an early crash.
Dainese, who abandoned early on, could well have been a contender in a race that often finishes in small bunch sprints. The Italian fastman was fourth recently in Le Samyn and third in the final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico.
The weather is dry and clear, incidentally, and the temperatures a chilly 9 degrees.
88 kilometres to go
The gap between our seven leaders and the peloton is now 1:33.
The riders are now well onto the first of four laps of the 28-kilometre finishing circuit and approaching the finish line at the Nokereberg for the second of five times.
The riders cross the Nokereberg finish line for a second time. Alex Colman (Flanders-Baloise) clips away and picks up some points for the sprints prize, followed by Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal-WB).
There are three previous winners in the peloton. Last year's champion and one of the top favourites today is Belgian National Champion Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep) who won from a bunch sprint. The other two are also riders from Belgium, Timothy Dupont (Tartoletto-Isorex), who triumphed on home soil in this race back in 2016 and Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal-WB) who won in 2021. Robeet is, of course, currently in the break.
78 kilometres to go
1:42 the current gap and as the pace is hardly blistering, Basque Antonio Soto (Euskaltel-Euskadi) opts for a quick bike change at the back of the bunch.
Crash in the peloton on a roundabout. Three riders down.
The three riders who fell at the roundabout are named by the race organisation as Matthew Bostock (Bolton Equities Black Spoke), Madis Mihkels (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and Gerd de Keijzer (Novo-Nordisk).
The seven riders in the break blaze across one of the 25 kilometres worth of cobbled sections on offer in this year's edition of Nokere Koerse, a rising segment on the Lange Ast climb, which they'll tackle twice more in this year's race. 1:34 the gap.
The race organisation has reported via Twitter that two of the three riders involved in an earlier crash, Matthew Bostock (Bolton Equities Black Spoke) and Gerd de Keijzer (Novo-Nordisk) have abandoned the race and are being taken to a local hospital for a check up on their injuries. The crash took place with 76 kilometres to go, and a third rider involved, Madis Mihkels (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), is apparently continuing in the race for now.
62 kilometres to go
And the gap between break and bunch is hovering at just under 1:30. A reminder of the seven riders ahead: Alex Colman (Flanders-Baloise), 2021 Nokere Koerse winner Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal-WB), Enekoitz Azparren (Euskatel-Euskadi), Adam De Vos (Human Powered Health), Rory Townsend (Bolton Equities Black Spoke), Etienne Van Empel (Corratec), and Jonas Geens (Tartaletto-Isolex).
60 kilometres to go
A bit of a pick-up of the pace in the peloton as a Cofidis rider briefly surges ahead, is reeled in, but then some more moves start. The race, briefly or not, is coming alive.
Irish National Champion Rory Townsend (Bolton Equities Black Spoke) leads the break across the finish but the seven riders' gap on a regrouped bunch has shrunk notably, to under a minute.
Two laps of the final finishing circuit to go.
48 kilometres to go
The break shrinks to six after Alex Colman (Flanders-Baloise) punctures. 52 seconds the gap.
The pace is hotting up in the bunch as Deceuninck-Alpecin send a delegation to the front, and DSM put their shoulder to the wheel on the far side of the road. Meanwhile Irish champion Rory Townsend is putting in a long turn at the front of the group of six.
45 kilometres to go
Another rider is sitting up now from the break. Etienne Van Empel (Corratec) is dropped.
So the five riders remaining up there are Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal-WB), Enekoitz Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Adam De Vos (Human Powered Health), Rory Townsend (Bolton Equities Black Spoke) and Jonas Geens (Tartaletto-Isolex).
40 kilometres to go
The second last ascent of the Lange Ast cobbled climb and after a notable acceleration by DSM, the five men in front have barely 25 seconds advantage.
On the ascent of the Lange Ast, an as-yet unidentified rider takes a slow-motion fall through a hedge at the back of the bunch.
Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel-Premier Tech) is caught up in a small crash at the back of the bunch.
Tom Devriendt (Q36.5 Pro Cycling) is making a determined attempt to bridge across to the five ahead, as the gap on the break rises to 35 seconds.
In turn, former Het Nieuwsblad winner Sep Vanmarcke (Israel-Premier Tech) makes a determined acceleration out of the bunch.
34 kilometres to go
Vanmarcke's acceleration has lined out the bunch and reeled in Tom Devriendt, but the peloton is still all together. Just.
Another surge off the front, this time by Lotto-Dstny's Arjen Liyvns. a very scant 13 seconds advantage for the five ahead.
29.5 kilometres to go
All but over for the five ahead.
28 kilometres to go
Former winner Robeet makes a desperate late acceleration and Rory Townsend is still ahead as the bunch crosses the finish line for the second last time. But the lights have gone out for the break for good.
A brief easing of the pace for the peloton on a more technical section is broken by a notably restless Sep Vanmarcke (Israel-Premier Tech).
Crash for Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Destny) on a fast, narrow right-hand bend.
Campenaerts is back up and back in the peloton as his teammate Jasper De Buyst, Vanmarcke and Soudal-Quick Step's Bert Lerberghe form an all-Belgian move ahead.
22.5 kilometres to go
Out of the three-man Belgian move, Jasper De Buyst (Lotto-Dstny) is the only one to keep going.
De Buyst's gap has stretched to 23 seconds. Behind, Soudal-Quick Step, clearly racing for last year's winner Tim Merlier, lay down the law in the peloton.
De Buyst ploughs on, with a gap of just under 20 seconds. In the last five editions of Nokere Koerse, only one, in 2021, was won by a breakaway with Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal-WB). The rest were all sprints.
UAE Team Emirates add their collective shoulder to the wheel as the peloton ups its efforts to reel in De Buyst.
13 kilometres to go
De Buyst is still out there with a 15 second gap, but the bunch is now pushing very hard indeed.
12 kilometres to go
Onto the Lange Ast for the last time and De Buyst is caught.
Despite his earlier crash, Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny) opens up the throttle towards the top of the Lange Ast and a group of some seven riders briefly goes clear. But they are reeled in.
10.5 kilometres to go
Just after the Campenaerts-inspired move has died, Groupama-FDJ's Sam Watson makes a gutsy solo move.
Watson now has 15 seconds on a bunch of some 60 or 70 riders.
Behind Watson as the young Briton powers on in search of his first pro win, UAE Team Emirates, presumably riding for sprinter Pascal Ackermann, are burning their last matches in the chase behind.
Crash for Kaden Groves, the fastman for Alpecin-Deceuninck.
Groves is back up and riding again, but the Australian's chances of taking part in a final bunch sprint are in shreds.
Six kilometres to go
Watson is still out there, but only just.
Just as Watson is caught, yet another attack drags a few riders clear, this time courtesy of Paris-Roubaix podium finisher Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Dstny).
Three kilometres to go
Vermeersch has gone clear with persistent attacker Sep Vanmarcke and Groupama-FDJ's Laurence Pithie.
Yet another big crash in the peloton. Some 30 riders in the front group chasing down the three breakaways who have a seven second gap.
The considerably reduced peloton is still chasing with a gap of less than 10 seconds on the trio ahead.
Yet another crash in the bunch. This is getting surreal.
Final 700 metres and the three riders still ahead.
The three riders are swept up in the finale...
And Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quick Step) wins for a second time in a row.
Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quick Step) wins the 77th edition of the Danilith Nokere Koerse.
Hugs and celebratory pats on the back from rivals and teammates alike for Tim Merlier after the finish. This is his second straight win in Nokere Koerse, his fifth of 2023 and his first on home soil this season, too.
Second behind Tim Merlier in small group bunch sprint rendered very messy by those multiple late crashes was Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), with Milan Menten (Lotto-Dstny) in third.
Locally born Merlier talks briefly after the race, saying "It was a hard final kilometre, very full on. But [teammate] Bert Van Lerberghe did a great job leading me out and keeping everything together. I'm very proud to have won my home race for a second time."
Second placed Theuns is also interviewed, saying "Tim has a fantastic sprint, but it's hard to get past him and I'm happy I came close. I kind of hoped he'd slow down in the final metres, but this was the best result possible today."
Merlier raises the flowers above his head on the podium, in what is an all-Belgian top three for this year's Nokere Koerse.
You can read our full report on the 2023 Nokere Koerse men's race here
And with that photo of Merlier taking his second straight win in the Nokere Koerse, that's it from us on the live coverage of this Belgian Classic. A full race report can be found here.