GENT-WEVELGEM’22: Biniam Girmay Makes History!

In Flanders Fields

Race Report: Eritrea is now in the cycling history books as Biniam Girmay won the Belgian Gent-Wevelgem classic after an action packed final. Girmay out-sprinted his breakaway companions: Christophe Laporte, Dries Van Gestel and Jasper Stuyven.

Big win for Biniam Girmay

Gent-Wevelgem 2022 was won by Biniam Girmay. After 249 kilometres between Ypres and Wevelgem, the Eritrean of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert was the first across the finish-line. He was the fastest of a leading group of four, ahead of Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma), Dries Van Gestel (TotalEnergies) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo).

The sign-on in Ypres/Ieper

Gent-Wevelgem starts with a long flat section, this is followed by the hilly zone with the Kemmelberg three times, which should thin out the favourites. After the last Kemmel for last time, the race gets tactical until the finish, where the hard-men have to get rid of the sprinters.

The 9 Climbs:
1. Scherpenberg (at 97.5km from the finish)
1,600m, 3% average and 8.4% maximum
2. Baneberg (at 91.9km from the finish)
2,000m, 4.6% avg. and 11.2% max.
3. Monteberg (85.9km from the finish)
1,400m, 7.7% avg. and 8.6% max.
4. Kemmelberg (Belvedere – 84.1km from the finish)
3,000m, 4% avg. and 22% max.
5. Monteberg (at 53.6km from the finish)
1,400m, 7.7% avg. and 8.6% max.
6. Kemmelberg (Belvedere – 51.8km from the finish)
3,000m, 4% avg. and 22% max.
7. Scherpenberg (at 44.3km from the finish)
1,600m, 3% avg. and 8.4% max.
8. Baneberg (at 39.6km from the finish)
2,000m., 4.6% avg. and 11.2% max.
9. Kemmelberg (Ossuaire – 34.3 km from the finish)
700m, 10.4% avg. and 21.1% max.

The 3 Plugstreets (4,000m):
1. Hill 63 (2,100m, at 71.6km from the finish)
2. Christmas Truce (1,300m, at 69.1km from the finish)
3. The Catacombs (600m, at 66.9km from the finish)

The first hour of racing was very fast and it took a long time before the ‘Break of the Day’ formed. Seven riders managed to get away after 30 kilometres: Nikias Arndt (DSM), Lindsay De Vylder (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Alexandr Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), Lars Saugstad (Uno-X) and Jelle Wallays (Cofidis). They quickly had a 5 minute lead from a Jumbo-Visma controlled peloton.

A Scottish piper to see the race off

Through the Menenpoort, Ieper

Alpecin-Fenix, BORA-hansgrohe and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl eventually gave a helping hand to the chase work. In the run-up to De Moeren the peloton became a bit nervous, but the wind played no significant role and the expected echelons didn’t form. More than 100 kilometres from the finish, in the run-up to the first climb of the day, there was chaos with a big crash on a narrow road.

Foggy Flanders

Will we see the Peter Sagan of the past?

The peloton broke into pieces and thus meant a first warning, but not much later everything came together again. A large peloton therefore started Kemmelberg for the first time, where Jhonatan Narváez was missing due to a fall while on the climb. Jumbo-Visma’s attentive racing was also noticeable. The team of leader Wout van Aert ensured that the peloton was already considerably thinned out at 80 kilometres from the finish.

Passing the many war cemeteries

Echelons were expected on the flat roads to the coast

The peloton split into pieces, but not much later everything came back together again. A large peloton started Kemmelberg for the first time, although Jhonatan Narváez was missing due to a crash at the bottom of the climb. Jumbo-Visma kept the pressure on for leader Wout van Aert and ensured that the peloton was already thinned out at 80 kilometres from the finish in Wevelgem.

The ‘Break of the Day’

More war monuments

Jumbo-Visma on the front of the peloton

Twenty riders from the peloton, including Matej Mohorič, Dylan van Baarle, Greg Van Avermaet, Victor Campenaerts, Biniam Girmay, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Mike Teunissen, Kasper Asgreen, Arnaud Démare and Edward Theuns, managed to get away. TotalEnergies and BikeExchange-Jayco had missed the move and had to close a 30 second gap. In the three plugstreets, the gravel sections in Hainaut, all the groups came back together. The early break was also pulled in, although Jacobs struggled for a while.

Moto crash, but the photographer keeps clicking

The expected echelons didn’t form on the flat before the climbs

‘Super’ favourite Wout van Aert

Bad luck for Dylan Groenewegen, the Dutch sprinter had a pedal problem on one of the gravel sections and was dropped by the front group. After the last plugstreet the large leading group had a 25 seconds lead on the peloton, where TotalEnergies chased and Jumbo-Visma controlled. It wasn’t fast enough at the front, so a regrouping followed 57 kilometres out.

Bahrain Victorious came to the front before the road narrowed

Crash on the narrow road and it looked like race over for Jens Keukeleire (EF Education-EasyPost)

Arjen Livyns attacked on the Monteberg, but was caught on the Kemmelberg. The favourites, led by Asgreen, Van Aert and Mads Pedersen, threw down the gauntlet and Fabio Jakobsen had problems following. Fifteen riders broke away from the rest after the Kemmelberg, but there was no co-operation and so both groups came together again.

Johan Jacobs (Movistar) was the strongest in the break

Dust on the Plugstreets

Last time up the Baneberg, Tiesj Benoot made a move, but it was a compact group that raced towards the final climb of the day: the Kemmelberg from the Ossuaire side. Van Aert attacked and just after the top was joined by Laporte, Benoot, Asgreen, Pedersen, Mohorič, Van Baarle and Søren Kragh Andersen.

The break on the Kemmel

Everyone was watching Wout van Aert

The differences were very small, so that a first chasing group with fast men such as Alexander Kristoff, Jasper Philipsen, Démare and Girmay rejoined. A second chasing group, including Tim Merlier, had more trouble making the crossing in the flat final towards Wevelgem, but they eventually succeeded. Laporte, Stuyven, Girmay and Dries Van Gestel had attacked from the front. Rasmus Tiller and Greg Van Avermaet counter-attacked but couldn’t get close and dropped back into the pack at 25 seconds.

The Van Aert/Laporte tandem

Van Avermaet and Benoot tried

Groupama-FDJ, Alpecin-Fenix ​​and Movistar were chasing, but the four leaders were taking more time. Laporte, Stuyven, Girmay and Van Gestel started the last 15 kilometres with 30 seconds and extended that lead to 40 seconds. The four looked like they would battle for victory, although there was some poker playing in the last 4 kilometres. Their advantage dropped to less than 20 seconds.

Biniam Girmay looked strong in the finalé

Kragh Andersen counter-attacked from the peloton with 2 kilometres to go, but he went too late. Laporte, Girmay, Stuyven and Van Gestel sprinted for the win. The Frenchman was forced to the front of the winning group in the last metres, Girmay started the sprint first. The 21-year-old Eritrean managed hold his effort and beat Laporte and Stuyven. A historic win.

The winning break of the day

A historic win.

Race winner, Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux): “I don’t know what happened. Unbelievable. This is amazing. I never expected this. My plans only changed a few days ago, Friday night actually. I came here for a good result, but this? This is great. I don’t think I will ride the Tour of Flanders. I’ve been here in Europe for more than three months and I miss my wife and my daughter, so I have to go back home. I felt really good, but there were also strong riders with me. I was therefore a bit scared, but when I saw that we were going to make it, I had faith. Especially in the last 250 meters. I was confident in my sprint. That I win is really unbelievable. A lot has already changed for me, but this means that there is a bright future for African riders. Congratulations to all Africans.”

Gent-Wevelgem Result:
1. Biniam Girmay (Eri) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux in 5:57:37
2. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Jumbo-Visma
3. Dries Van Gestel (Bel) TotalEnergies
4. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
5. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) DSM at 0:08
6. Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
7. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
8. Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar
9. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
10. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
11. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
12. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
13. Luka Mezgec (Slo) BikeExchange-Jayco
14. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
15. Robbe Ghys (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
16. Laurenz Rex (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
17. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën
18. Arjen Livyns (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
19. Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal
20. Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis
21. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
22. Jonas Koch (Ger) BORA-hansgrohe
23. Marijn van den Berg (Ned) EF Education-EasyPost
24. Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis
25. Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Movistar.

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