The Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux squad announced the signing of Norwegian sprinter Alexander Kristoff and lead-out man Sven Erik Bystrøm, who will move across to the Belgian outfit for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
Kristoff, 34, and Bystrøm, 29, both from Stavanger, have been teammates since the latter turned professional with Katusha in 2015 and moved together to their current squad, UAE Team Emirates, in 2018.
"This winter will feel like my first day at school," Kristoff said in the team's press release. "Meeting new teammates, new staff, trying new equipment, … is very exciting and renews my enthusiasm."
Kristoff has racked up 100 victories in his career, including four stages of the Tour de France. While most of his victories have come thanks to his sprinting strength, including his win in Milan-San Remo in 2014, he also won the 2015 Tour of Flanders from a small selection. Kristoff aims to have a stronger focus on the Classics with the Belgian team.
"I'll be part of a team in which the Classics are a priority for the first time. It gives me a lot of confidence to know that, just like me, my future teammates have the Classics close to their heart," he said.
After winning the opening stage of the 2020 Tour de France, Kristoff did not make UAE Team Emirates squad for this year's Tour as their focus shifted to the overall with Tadej Pogačar and he has so far gone winless this year.
The new motivation and energy of a move to Intermarché, he said, is welcome. "This season didn't really go as expected. For example, the Covid restrictions reduced my possibilities to go on training camps, or on top of a mediocre form at the start of the season I also got sick during the Classics.
"I feel that things are turning around for me now and I hope to show it at the end of this season. I want to win back my position among the best riders in the world and to perform at the classics like before. I've always felt good in my teams, so I'm looking forward to a nice future with Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux!"
For his part, Bystrøm said the most important factor in the decision to make the switch to Intermarché was a chance to "realize my own ambitions".
"I appreciate the cobble Classics and I'm dreaming of winning a Grand Tour stage. This is exactly what the Belgian team desires to achieve with me, so all pieces fit," Bystrøm said. "I've been following the team's progression from the sideline, especially with [fellow Norwegian] Odd Eiking, and during the meetings with the team it became pretty clear that we were on the same page."
Intermarché are one of the lowest ranked teams in the UCI World Rankings, with a victory in the Giro d'Italia from Taco van der Hoorn their only win of the season so far. General manager Jean-François Bourlart is excited to have a multi-talented rider like Kristoff join the team.
"It's not easy to find a great leader for the Classics and sprints, because they are really coveted. So it's a pleasure to welcome Alexander Kristoff in our structure," Bourlart said. "I appreciate his image, his combative spirit to reach the top. Alexander is one of the greatest riders in the world and will be an important asset for the Classics. They are of great importance for a Belgian team and it's exactly this environment what he was looking for."
As for Bystrøm, the 2014 U23 World Champion, coach Aike Visbeek says has not always gotten the opportunities he might have deserved.
"Apart from his national title he's still missing a big victory," Visbeek says of Bystrøm. "He shows himself often, he's capable of playing a role in all WorldTour races and he has a big ambition to obtain results. In our team he'll get the opportunity to realize his goals. His capabilities and his age constitute the type of rider we need. He's a World Tour rider with a big engine and many possibilities. He wants to prove himself and we want to support him to achieve big results. We're expecting a lot from this duo and we've got many plans with them!"
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