“In contrast to previous years, the arrival this year is not in Vorselaar, but on the Astridplein in Grobbendonk,” says Anton Mertens. “But that won’t make much difference. The chance that there will also be a bunch sprint there is particularly high, given the flat course.”
Rijkevorselnaar Mertens is not a purebred sprinter. A role as top favorite is therefore not for him. Still, his performances so far this season are quite impressive. With a podium place in Vosselaar and three other top six places, Mertens already achieved quite good results. And then we must not lose sight of the servant work that he already dares to deliver as a newcomer.
“I don’t mind sacrificing my chances sometimes for others. Although I would like to put that into perspective. Usually I realize that winning is not in it for me. In such a case, I think it’s better that the victory stays within our team than that I finish somewhere around tenth place. Moreover, my work is appreciated by the others. Like recently in Herenthout. Those compliments make me grow figuratively. Although that is of course not so difficult with my slender stature.” (laughs)
On Sunday, Mertens, whose brother Arthur is also a cyclist, will take his own chance. “That is certainly the intention, although of course you never know that in advance. The match image can change per second. That fourth place last weekend in Helchteren has given me courage.”
The steps forward that the 15-year-old TSO Sport student at the Mariagaarde Institute in Westmalle is taking are remarkable. Last year he regularly dangled at the back of the peloton.
“And then I really had to do my best to stay with the others. What is the main reason for my progression? In the meantime I have already gotten a growth shoot and gained strength. In addition, since this year I also work together with trainer Rob Lenaerts in addition to the weekly team training sessions. That extra training on Tuesday is done together with some other teammates and does not miss its target. To make it look a bit real, we have ourselves with Velocity I also gave a nice team name.”