Girmay to make Grand Tour debut at Giro d'Italia
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux look to expand with women's and development teams
Biniam Girmay put in one of the most scintillating performances of the UCI Road World Championships in Flanders last September when he burst out of the pack and passed a dozen riders in the final 200 metres to take second in the U23 men's race behind solo attacker Filippo Baroncini.
The ride was no surprise, after Girmay parlayed a mid-season transfer to Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux and quickly paid off the WorldTour team with a win in the Classic Grand Besançon Doubs and a podium in Tour du Doubs.
The team are now counting on Girmay to lead the team in the sprints at the Giro d'Italia in his Grand Tour debut.
"My silver medal at the Worlds in Leuven turned out to be a turning point for my country but also for my career," Girmay said in a team press release. "From now on, the expectations will be high and the motivation too. This season, the big goal will be the Giro d'Italia, my very first Grand Tour."
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux also brought on Norwegian Alexander Kristoff as their leader for the Classics and Tour de France sprints but he will also serve as a mentor to the 21-year-old Girmay.
"I will take advantage of Alexander Kristoff's experience in a race like Milan-San Remo, which he has won in the past," Girmay says. He will start his season at the Challenge Mallorca this month.
"I have felt at home since I joined Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux and the atmosphere, both friendly and professional, allows me to progress serenely. I'm ready for my debut at the Mallorca Challenge. "
According to performance manager Aike Visbeek, the team has focussed on sprint trains for Kristoff, Girmay and their fellow new recruit Gerben Thijssen. "This is an area we want to improve in 2022, to bring us closer to victory," Visbeek said. "With Lorenzo Rota and Quinten Hermans, we also have solid arguments for the Ardennes classics."
The team made its WorldTour debut in 2021 and scored a few major victories - Taco van der Hoorn won a stage in the Giro d'Italia and Odd Christian Eiking won a stage in the Vuelta a España but CEO Jean-François Bourlart aims to build on that first effort and expand the organisation, too.
"The team had great moments in the Giro and the Vuelta, now we want to do the same in the Tour de France. The first week, featuring great stages in Denmark, northern France and Binche, drives us to display great ambitions, Bourlart said.
"We start 2022 with the same dream that has driven us since the launch of our project, which is winning big races, while remaining realistic. As a Belgian World Team, we have the ambition to shine in the Classics and that is why we have recruited, among others, a rider of the caliber of Alexander Kristoff. We want to influence the finals more and get as close as possible to the podiums."
Boulart credits Intermarché with helping the team reach the WorldTour and said the sponsor "now wishes to become a major actor in the peloton in the years to come".
"Together, we want to continue to grow this project, from this year the support of the Belgian subsidiary is associated with the French. And this ambition does not stop at the World Tour because the wish is, in the long term, to extend the structure with women's and continental development teams. "
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Managing Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks. Laura's specialises in covering doping, anti-doping, UCI governance and performing data analysis.