“We’re not preoccupied with great magic formulas.”

And the Oscar for Best Start of the Season goes to… Intermarché-Circus-Wanty. Malia is a sparrow at the WorldTour, acting like an albatross. the secret? “Just move smart and adjust professionally.”

JDK

Rui Costa three times, Kobe Goossens twice, Beniam Jeremy once. She makes six tackles, which puts her at the top of the international wins standings. The Belgian league Intermarché-Circus-Wanty (10 million euros) also leads the FIFA World Ranking, ahead of budget giants UAE Team Emirates (35 million) and Eneos Grenadier (46 million).

“Very nice,” says performance director Aike Visbeek. He admits that he sometimes has to pinch himself. “I had full faith in a good start, and we worked deliberately to make it happen. That it was going to be so giant beyond my wildest expectations. But the numbers are there. I’m proud of that.”

For comparison: twelve months ago, the counter had one win on February 8th. Why the sudden success? “It’s not that we work behind the scenes with great magic formulas,” says Vesbeck. But by strengthening and building on the strong professional base that already existed. Five passengers used to pull the cart, now we are trying to improve thirty passengers. This is the big difference.

“Last summer I did some serious thinking. How do we put together a cohesive team? And what do we need for that? Smart, targeted conversions, for a start.”

renewal

Intermarché has pushed its average age from 28.5 years, making it the second-oldest core on the WorldTour in 2022, to 27.2 years. But according to specialist platform ProCyclingStats, it emerged as the most underrated team from Mercato (all riders combined are 2,820 points lower than last year). Christophe, Hermans, Hirt, Pozzovivo, Pasqualone, and Differendt gave way to Theunissen, Costa, Smith, Marit, and others.

“Marette, for example, had a completely unlucky year in 2022. But in 2021, he collected 600 points for Sport Flanders-Baloise,” says Vesbeck. Moreover, there are the appearances of people like Hugo Page, who really knocked on the door last year: third place in Le Samyn, fifth in Binche. He is now runner-up in Cadel Evans’ Great Ocean Road Race.”

Beniam Jermay wins the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in the sprint.Pictures, pictures, news

Riskier Investment: Former World Champion Rui Costa, now 36 and over the past four years more often than not a shadow of the jockey he used to be. “It raised questions,” admits Vesbeck. “But look. Much more important than his results to me is the winning mentality, calmness, experience and intelligence that he brings to the group. I notice that there is good communication, an interesting process with all those different nationalities and languages, and that everyone goes through the fire for each other. That team spirit is also Credit to Costa. Jermay who drops him off in Mallorca at the foot of Cumbre del Sol, who in turn pulls up to Jermay in the last kilometer of the opening stage. Successful design, I think.”

More knowledge

Paying attention to qualitative details, Visbeek gives another explanation. Or as he himself describes it: “All kinds of small but important things that make us strong in all areas.” Then it should be looked for in the framework. “We brought more knowledge on board with Christophe Bremont, a third full-time coach, affiliated with Université Louvain-la-Neuve. Two additional team coaches as well, Dimitri Claes and Lorenzo Lapage; and two full-time nutritionists.”

It is now important to continue this positive streak in the really important races, the classics and the (big) Tours. Visbeek also understands this. “We’ve put ourselves in an excellent starting position. That exciting start provides some peace, confidence and relief. It was different once (Remember the fuss over the departure of Quentin Hermans, JDK). This is only a small part of the season, and there are still important chapters to come. The goal remains to connect to the absolute top with Girlay in the classics. It’s on schedule, but we still have some work to do. And I want to finish the year in the top ten in the world. That seems realistic to me.”

Kobe Gosens wins in Mallorca.  Pictures, pictures, news

Kobe Gosens wins in Mallorca.Pictures, pictures, news

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Amber Webster

 "Freelance zombie fanatic. Devoted web advocate. Analyst. Writer. Coffee fanatic. Travelaholic. Proud food aficionado."

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