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Who is Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux?

The Belgian squad steps up to the WorldTour level in 2021: But who the heck are they, and what can we expect from them next year?

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux isn’t the catchiest of names for a cycling team, but get used to saying it, because the squad is set to step up to the WorldTour in 2021.

After taking control of CCC Team’s WorldTour license this fall, the Belgian outfit is set to progress from rare appearances at grand tours and home-turf skirmishes in the classics to being a full-time fixture at the top of pro cycling for 2021.

But who is Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, and what can we expect from them in the new year?

The backstory

Intermarché joins the Belgian team as it steps up into the WorldTour in 2021. Photo: Cycling Media Agency

It may be a new name on the WorldTour, but the Wanty-Gobert franchise has been around since 2009.

The team started out as Continental-level Willems Verandas before spinning through various name and sponsor changes, finally settling on its longer-term identity of Wanty-Groupe Gobert in 2014. Two years later, Enrico Gasparotto (remember him!?) scored the team’s biggest win to date, outsprinting Michael Valgren to win the Amstel Gold Race.

Just as CCC Team was owned by Continuum Sports or EF Pro Cycling by Slipstream, Wanty-Gobert is a part of Want You Cycling, which also manages the Tormans cyclocross team.

After 10 years of seeing its team racing in the second tier of pro cycling, the Want You entity bought the WorldTour license from Continuum Sports this year, calling time on Jim Ochowicz’s long sponsor search as he sought to save his team from evaporation.

The buyout marked the realization of a long ambition, said team manager Jean-François Bourlart.

“With the co-founders of Want You Cycling, we built our project step-by-step with the ambition to one day move to the WorldTour,” said the Belgian veteran. “The moment had to be right, the structure had to be ready, and our partners eager to follow us. We are therefore very proud today to take over the project from Jim Ochowicz and Gavin Chilcott and present to the UCI the continuation of Continuum Sports in the WorldTour. “

Shortly after the purchase of the WorldTour license, grocery store chain Intermarché stepped in to add financial heft and its name to the title of the team for 2021 through 2023

The riders

Newly signed South African Louis Meintjes will lead any GC ambitions in the team. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Like many European teams, Wanty-Gobert has built its roster from home talent. In the early days, it was as Belgian as you can get, though has now spread its wings to pack a more Euro-centric squad for 2021, with “just” 10 Belgians in a 27-man squad.

Rather than buying up the dozens of riders on the 2020 CCC Team roster when it acquired the license to race at the top, Wanty stayed true to its current crop of racers, signing just three names from the ashes of its now-defunct predecessor.

Alongside the addition of Jan Hirt, Georg Zimmerman, and Jonas Koch from CCC Team, Wanty-Gobert has also recently bolstered its lineup with South African GC guy Louis Meintjes and former Giro and Vuelta stage winner, the Estonian Rein Taaramäe.

Meintjes, twice in the top-10 at the Tour de France, will likely lead the charge at grand tours for Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, and stands as the squad’s one valid option for three-week success. Hirt will support Meintjes in the stage races with his solid GC and climbing chops.

Away from the mountains, the team is brimming with wily classics and breakaway riders, and while none of them are star names, they’re all capable of being in the mix.

The staffers

Wanty-Gobert may pack a largely unknown roster, but it will have a fleet of some of the most experienced staffers calling the shots in 2021.

Jim Ochowicz has been kept aboard after being bought out from ownership, and will bring decades of experience from managing 7-Eleven, BMC Racing, and CCC Team. The American will be joining the squad’s existing head honcho Bourlart, who has sat at the top of Wanty for over a decade.

Valerio Piva follows Ochowicz in joining from CCC Team and boasts a decade of experience as a WorldTour director, while Aike Visbeek joins as performance manager having formerly worked with Sunweb and helped guide Tom Dumoulin to Giro d’Italia glory.

The bikes

Cube bikes will make its first step into the WorldTour in 2021. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux will be riding Cube bikes in 2021, having been aboard the German-made machines since 2015. It will be the first time the brand has been a part of the WorldTour.

What to expect?

More of the same.

As a Belgian squad backed by a chain of 78 Belgian stores, classics will likely be the focus, and is arguably where the team has its strengths, with the likes of Aimé de Gendt and Danny van Poppel capable of elbowing their way into the top-10 at major one-day races.

Similarly, while Meintjes provides a GC option, the squad is unlikely to pivot too heavily from the stage-hunting strategy it employed in its three Tours de France to date. Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux jerseys will likely be filling screens in the long lonely breakaways of 2021 as it fights to put its new sponsors in the spotlight and make a name for itself in its debut season.

Meintjes has stated his ambition to return to his former grand tour best in 2021, so expect to see the team ditching the breakaways in one of the three grand tours as it mounts an all-in classification with the South African stalwart.