Intermarché-Circus-Wanty continued its golden spell thanks to a win by Biniam Girmay in the Volta a la Communitat Valenciana this afternoon.
The Eritrean rider recorded his first win of the year when he won the town centre sprint finish from a reduced bunch in the popular training camp destination of Altea on Spain's Costa Blanca. Launching his kick from some way out, the 22-year-old put two bike lengths into second placed Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma), who was followed in by Iván Garcia Cortina (Movistar).
That's four wins so far this year for the Belgian WorldTour team.
This 189.4km first stage from Orihuela to Altea was a tough day out for the Valenciana peloton, who faced a brace of significant climbs in the second half of the race. The Coll de Rates and the Puerto de Bernia will both be familiar to the many amateurs who have rasped over them during a winter training camp, but the peloton took them in its stride, with a large contingent still together as the riders descended towards their coastal destination.
Joan Bou of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team managed to steal off the front in the closing kilometres, but he was brought back as the bunch marauded through Altea's tight streets, with Girmay finishing the job off. He shot to stardom after winning Gent Wevelgem last year, which he followed up with a Giro d'Italia stage win that culminated in an eye injury thanks to a stray celebratory champagne cork. He's clearly on good form again and should be one to watch out for in the upcoming Classics, as well as the rest of this week.
Last year's overall winner Alexandr Vlasov of Bora-Hansgrohe also issued what looked like a statement of intent, finishing 12th at the same time as Girmay.
With Vlasov most suited to hard climbing situations, he'll have plenty of opportunity to bear his teeth this week – most notably on stage four, which features five classified climbs including a summit finish at Alto de Cova Santa.
He probably also rather likes the look of tomorrow's stage, which features no less than seven categorised climbs, including the category-one Cumbres del Sol, and finishes on a 3.2km ramp. Should be a good one to watch.
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