Gent-Wevelgem: Biniam Girmay scores historic win from four-up attack

Eritrean star sprints out of back of four-rider group to take breakout win at 21 years of age.

Photo: Getty Images

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Eritrean speedster Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) powered to a historic victory Sunday at Gent-Wevelgem.

The 21-year-old sprinted out of a group of four attackers to land a breakout result in his first full cobblestone campaign, beating  Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) and Dries van Gestel (TotalEnergies) to the line in Wevelgem.

Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafero) finished fourth out of the attackers before the charging peloton – including top favorites Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) – came to the finish seconds later.

Girmay has only a handful of cobbled races in his young palmarès, but looked on the brink of something big with his fifth-place finish at E3 Classic on Friday. His sprint victory Sunday made for rapid confirmation of his huge talent and made him the first African rider to win a marquee Belgian classic.

“It is unbelievable, amazing – we changed my plan on Friday night. I was coming for some good results, but to win this race, it’s just unbelievable,” he said at the finish.

Girmay made a long powerful sprint from the back of the group of experienced classics stars and narrowly fended off Laporte’s late surge. He said he felt more comfortable coming from the back and going early.

“I felt much better, but there were strong guys with me, I was a bit afraid,” he said. “When I went back to last and I felt more confident. When I was in the last 250m, I had more confidence.”

Also read: Girmay confirms promise at E3 Harelbeke

Girmay’s second-place finish at U23 worlds last year and now his victory at Gent-Wevelgem has propelled African, and particularly Eritrean, riders directly into the world’s eyeline.

Despite the victory Sunday, he will miss Tour of Flanders next weekend to fly home to reunite with family.

“This has changed a lot for me, and it’s a bright future, especially for African riders,” he said. “Congrats to all African riders.”

How it happened: A tale of three climbs

The fearsome Kemmelberg climb often proves crucial in Gent-Wevelgem, and Sunday was no different.

First Kemmelberg – first serious split

The winds didn’t blow hard enough to force the splits and echelons that can prove so decisive in the opening hours of the race, and the early break of seven went into the hilly mid-sector with a five-minute gap.

Bahrain-Victorious and Jumbo-Visma motored at the front of the peloton before van Aert and Asgreen started throwing down at 90km to go.

Van Aert went first on the Baneberg, and then again with Asgreen on the first ascent of the Kemmelberg. The race exploded and a group of 20 dangermen – excluding van Aert – dived away on the following descent and caught the breakaway.

Like earlier this spring, Asgreen was without Quick-Step wingmen in the group of attackers.

Although Peter Sagan was dropped, TotalEnergies chased hard in the peloton for Anthony Turgis, and the catch was made inside the final 60km.

Second Kemmelberg – second serious split

Trek-Segafredo controlled into the second Kemmelberg climb and Asgreen drove the pace over the summit.

A group of around 16 went clear over the top, with Jumbo-Visma, Trek-Segafredo and Groupama FDJ among those taking numbers into the escape. Asgreen was again isolated.

Girmay was always active toward the front of the bunch along with a handful of teammates, but the Eritrean never showed too much, biding his time for the final

Skirmishes came and went from the first attack group and the yoyo-ing pace saw a bunch of around 40 come together again ahead of the final trio of climbs.

Tiesj Benoot (JumboVisma) and Olivier Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ) started pressuring over the penultimate climbs in one last effort to split the group before the flat final run toward Wevelgem but the group stayed together heading into the final Kemmelberg climb.

Third Kemmelberg – there goes van Aert

The final Kemmelberg ascent saw van Aert try to make his “Hail Mary” move.

Van Aert kicked hard at the bottom of the climb and rocketed away from a small bunch of chasers over the summit.

A handful of groups joined the Belgian ace soon after the descent to form a mini-peloton at the front of the race.

Jumbo-Visma stacked numbers into the front of the race, and Laporte looked to work the numbers with his attack at 25km to go, dragging Girmay, Stuyven and van Gestel with him.

The quartet rolled through together into the headwind and managed to pull out a 30 second lead over a bunch of two-dozen chasers.

Jumbo-Visma let the move go for Laporte and the peloton stuttered. Sensing the chance for a bunch-sprint was vanishing, Alpecin-Fenix, Quick-Step and Groupama-FDJ started pulling hard in the bunch in the final 15km.

The quartet started losing ground on the chasing pack and the race dangled on a knife-edge as the race roared into Wevelgem.

The peloton was just over the foursome’s shoulders when Girmay opened the sprint from the back at around 250m to go. The Eritrean took a wide line and dug deep to narrowly fend off a late surge from Laporte and score a huge breakout victory.

“I was surprised by Girmay when he opened his sprint so early,” Laporte said. “I wanted to win today and I didn’t think he’d sprint that so early and it was complicated when there was a bit of a gap. It’s a big disappointment for me because the team rode great today.”

Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields ME Results

1GIRMAY BiniamIntermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux5:37:57
2LAPORTE ChristopheJumbo-Visma0:00
3VAN GESTEL DriesTotalEnergies0:00
4STUYVEN JasperTrek - Segafredo0:00
6MERLIER TimAlpecin-Fenix0:08
7PEDERSEN MadsTrek - Segafredo0:08
8GARCÍA CORTINA IvánMovistar Team0:08
9MOHORIČ MatejBahrain - Victorious0:08
10DÉMARE ArnaudGroupama - FDJ0:08
11KRISTOFF AlexanderIntermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux0:08
12VAN AERT WoutJumbo-Visma0:08
13MEZGEC LukaTeam BikeExchange - Jayco0:08
14PASQUALON AndreaIntermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux0:08
15GHYS RobbeSport Vlaanderen - Baloise0:08
16REX LaurenzBingoal Pauwels Sauces WB0:08
17VAN AVERMAET GregAG2R Citroën Team0:08
18LIVYNS ArjenBingoal Pauwels Sauces WB0:08
19VERMEERSCH FlorianLotto Soudal0:08
20ALLEGAERT PietCofidis0:08
21PHILIPSEN JasperAlpecin-Fenix0:08
22KOCH JonasBORA - hansgrohe0:08
23VAN DEN BERG MarijnEF Education-EasyPost0:08
24CONSONNI SimoneCofidis0:08
25ARANBURU AlexMovistar Team0:08
26TURGIS AnthonyTotalEnergies0:08
27DEGENKOLB JohnTeam DSM0:08
28TURNER BenINEOS Grenadiers0:08
29SKAARSETH AndersUno-X Pro Cycling Team0:08
30TILLER RasmusUno-X Pro Cycling Team0:08
31BEULLENS CedricLotto Soudal0:08
32ASGREEN KasperQuick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team0:08
33CAMPENAERTS VictorLotto Soudal0:08
34BENOOT TiesjJumbo-Visma0:08
35VALGREN MichaelEF Education-EasyPost0:08
36KÜNG StefanGroupama - FDJ0:08
37FRISON FrederikLotto Soudal0:08
38PETIT AdrienIntermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux0:08
39LAMPAERT YvesQuick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team0:14
40KIRSCH AlexTrek - Segafredo0:17
41VAN BAARLE DylanINEOS Grenadiers0:25
42LE GAC OlivierGroupama - FDJ0:25
43KANTER MaxMovistar Team0:27
44JACOBS JohanMovistar Team0:27
45WRIGHT FredBahrain - Victorious0:29
46VERMEERSCH GianniAlpecin-Fenix0:42
47SÜTTERLIN JashaBahrain - Victorious1:20
48DE LIE ArnaudLotto Soudal1:20
49ARNDT NikiasTeam DSM1:22
50HAUSSLER HeinrichBahrain - Victorious1:29
51TEUNISSEN MikeJumbo-Visma1:30
52DE GENDT AiméIntermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux1:30
53VAN ROOY KennethSport Vlaanderen - Baloise1:30
54DE VYLDER LindsaySport Vlaanderen - Baloise1:30
55HOULE HugoIsrael - Premier Tech1:30
56OLIVEIRA RuiUAE Team Emirates1:30
57DILLIER SilvanAlpecin-Fenix1:30
58SCULLY TomEF Education-EasyPost1:30
59NAESEN OliverAG2R Citroën Team1:36
60DEWULF StanAG2R Citroën Team1:36
61THEUNS EdwardTrek - Segafredo1:36
62VAN HOOYDONCK NathanJumbo-Visma1:36
63ANIOŁKOWSKI StanisławBingoal Pauwels Sauces WB1:42
64VAN LERBERGHE BertQuick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team1:49
65GENIETS KevinGroupama - FDJ1:49
66TOUZÉ DamienAG2R Citroën Team1:56
67PIDCOCK ThomasINEOS Grenadiers1:56
68JAKOBSEN FabioQuick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team7:06
69VIVIANI EliaINEOS Grenadiers7:06
70TRENTIN MatteoUAE Team Emirates7:06
71TERPSTRA NikiTotalEnergies7:06
72LUDVIGSSON TobiasGroupama - FDJ7:06
73FIORELLI FilippoBardiani-CSF-Faizanè7:06
74MOZZATO LucaB&B Hotels - KTM7:06
75ERVITI ImanolMovistar Team7:06
76KREDER WesleyCofidis7:06
77VANMARCKE SepIsrael - Premier Tech7:06
78ARASHIRO YukiyaBahrain - Victorious7:06
79POLITT NilsBORA - hansgrohe9:56
80MARIT ArneSport Vlaanderen - Baloise9:56
81HALLER MarcoBORA - hansgrohe9:56
82MÄRKL NiklasTeam DSM9:56
83BARBIER PierreB&B Hotels - KTM9:56
84LIENHARD FabianGroupama - FDJ9:56
85RAUGEL AntoineAG2R Citroën Team9:56
86HALVORSEN KristofferUno-X Pro Cycling Team9:56
87MACIEJUK FilipBahrain - Victorious9:56
88KONYCHEV AlexanderTeam BikeExchange - Jayco9:56
89BOARO ManueleAstana Qazaqstan Team9:56
90RUTSCH JonasEF Education-EasyPost9:56
91VAN HOECKE GijsAG2R Citroën Team9:56
92BOASSON HAGEN EdvaldTotalEnergies9:56
93SAUGSTAD LarsUno-X Pro Cycling Team9:56
94MORICE JulienB&B Hotels - KTM9:56
95WALLAYS JelleCofidis9:56
96BISSEGGER StefanEF Education-EasyPost9:56
97LANGEVELD SebastianEF Education-EasyPost9:56
98SCHÄR MichaelAG2R Citroën Team9:56
99HOOLE DaanTrek - Segafredo9:56
100VERGAERDE OttoTrek - Segafredo9:56
101CARVALHO AndreCofidis9:56
102MODOLO SachaBardiani-CSF-Faizanè9:56
103BRAET VitoSport Vlaanderen - Baloise9:56
104BODNAR MaciejTotalEnergies9:56
105PAASSCHENS MathijsBingoal Pauwels Sauces WB9:56
106BENNETT SamBORA - hansgrohe9:56

Results provided by ProCyclingStats.

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