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There were smiles and relief inside the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert bus following Wednesday’s explosive race at the Circuit Franco-Belge.
Nerves were on edge when sprinter ace Biniam Girmay crashed out of the midweek classic but was not seriously injured.
The smiles returned at the finish line when Alexander Kristoff surged to victory ahead of Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Soudal) to deliver his fourth victory in 2022.
“Maybe I used the Tour de France as training camp because I feel stronger since,” Kristoff said with a joke. “These uphill finishes were perfect for me when I was younger, but I had to dig deep today. I’m so happy to offer this victory and bring joy to my team.”
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Girmay returned to European racing last month for the first time since his freak accident involving a prosecco cork after celebrating his history stage victory at the Giro d’Italia in May that injured his eye.
On Wednesday, Girmay went down in a tangle of bikes, but team officials said he was not seriously injured beyond some minor road rash.
It was unclear what caused the pileup, but also going down in the high-speed crash were Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel Premier Tech) and Luca Mozzato (B&B Hotels).
Although it’s not clear, It seems like it’s Luca Mozzato of B&B who brought biniam and Nizzolo down.
Felt sorry for him, as both biniam and Nizzolo were not kinda OK with him, following the crash.
— MIKU (@itsmikiy) August 11, 2022
Girmay will not be racing the Vuelta a España but will have a busy fall loaded with one-day races, and the Tour du Limousin, before heading to the Canadian WorldTour races and the world championships.
For Kristoff, the one-day race saw him back to his best in a display of brute strength and ambition. He joined Campenaerts in the decision move to the line and beat back the Belgian to deliver another win for the team.
“I had to dig deep when Campenaerts made the junction and immediately attacked two kilometers before the finish and also when he launched the sprint from far,” Kristoff said. “But I still had the power to follow him and pass him in the final meters. I’m so happy to offer this victory to the team, the sponsors, and the fans because we’re at home.”
Kristoff said he’s feeling stronger after coming out of the Tour winless, though he did finish third on the Champs-Élysées and third last weekend at the Tour of Leuven-Memorial Jef Scherens.
“Since the Tour de France, my condition is improving and this resulted in a third place last Sunday and a victory today. Now I’m traveling to Munich for the European championships,” Kristoff said. “The parcours will be less challenging than today and the pure sprinters will probably fight for the starred jersey. In my opinion, riders like Merlier and Jakobsen are the men to beat, and that’s what I’ll try to do.”
Kristoff, 35, will leave the team at the end of the season to join Uno-X on a three-year deal.