Biniam Girmay ‘can be as good as Van der Poel, Van Aert,’ says team boss
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert confident Girmay is on brink of bridging to front echelon of pro cycling as it centers future around the Eritrean star.
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Biniam Girmay is rocketing into the very front echelon of pro cycling, and bringing his team with him.
Top brass at Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert is confident its Eritrean sensation has the raw talent and massive motor required to reach the level of Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert.
“If you look at ‘Bini’ and the progress he can make, he will be always up there in the big classics. He’ll be riding a lot against Van der Poel, Van Aert a lot in the one-day races in future. On a good day we know he can beat them,” team performance manager Aike Visbeek told VeloNews.
“You see with these guys, they’re so toe-to-toe that there is no top dog. There are three, four, five guys that are on a really top level. [Julian] Alaphilippe and maybe ‘Bini’ are among those.”
Also read: Girmay: ‘Gent-Wevelgem win is important for me, my team, for African cycling’
Girmay made some elite company when he blasted to breakout victory at Gent-Wevelgem this spring and returned to the top step soon after at the Giro d’Italia.
Outsprinting Van der Poel in Italy and bettering Tour de France stage-winner Christophe Laporte in Wevelgem might be just a hint at what’s to come from the 22-year-old in future years.
“I hope Biniam gets to that level where he can consistently ride for victory with these guys,” Visbeek said. “Next year in the classics it might not always be victory, but maybe second, third fourth more often in these big classics.”
Intermarché’s sprint star recently struggled to find a groove since a speeding cork curtailed his gallop through the Giro.
Triumph at the Eritrean national TT championship before crashes at last month’s Tour of Wallonie and Wednesday’s Circuit Franco-Belge sees the second-year pro continue to learn the craft required to make Visbeek’s “big five.”
“I think he has the talent and the level to ride against guys like van der Poel for the podium places – we just need to find the consistency,” Visbeek said.
Girmay bet on Intermarché, now Intermarché bets on Girmay
Girmay is expected to lead Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert in the Tour du Limousin four-day race next week as he pedals toward the Canadian Grand Prix races and the Wollongong road worlds in September.
Intermarché has a new center of gravity with Girmay.
Extending the Eritrean’s contract through 2026 brought the team the leverage and the rider the backing he bet on when he joined what was once a mid-pack player.
“He’s arrived as a star in one-day races and in the sprints who can be competitive in the future, and is still emerging. For us it brings stability – we have a star rider,” Visbeek said.
Also read: How Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert went from roster rags to racing riches
Girmay swatted brushed aside interest from a swath of WorldTour teams like UAE Emirates when he signed with Visbeek’s crew last summer.
“We are a smaller team with a smaller budget. When you have a rider that still has a lot of development ahead of him, a multi-year deal brings stability and a center to the team. It worked well for us both,” Visbeek said.
Intermarché has been busy on the summer transfer carousel as it builds around Girmay.
Mike Teunissen will be a boon in the classics after working with Van Aert for many years. Former world champ Rui Costa can lend Girmay know-how and horsepower for hilly classics and breakaway days.
The upcoming exit of grizzled sprinter Alexander Kristoff will see Girmay gain more opportunity – and pressure – to deliver to the level Visbeek envisages.
“Now, with ‘Bini,’ you see a lot of teams are interested in our equipment and bike sponsors, plus having him on the team brings that stability and means sponsors are more likely to stay,” Visbeek said.
Intermarché is currently the only WorldTour team to ride Cube bikes.
Franco-Belgian supermarket giant Intermarché brings backing for at least one more year. Girmay could be the poster boy that brings more bankability for seasons to come.
“With his potential, you’re more interesting to sponsors so you can build an even more solid foundation,” Visbeek said. “We have sponsors behind us but the budget is still small. We’re always looking to grow that of course.”
For IWG, the future is bright, the future is “Bini.”