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Tour de Suisse: Girmay grabs stage 2 sprint victory ahead of Démare, Van Aert

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Monday, 12 June 2023

Tour de Suisse: Girmay grabs stage 2 sprint victory ahead of Démare, Van Aert

Evenepoel and Van Aert snatch bonus seconds to squeeze the gap on overall leader Küng
Biniam G
Biniam G.

Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) won stage 2 of the Tour de Suisse in a searingly-fast bunch sprint finish.

Wout van Aert (jumbo-Visma) led out the sprint close to the right-hand barriers at Notwil, only for Girmay to power past in the last 100 metres. Second was Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), with Van Aert completing the day’s podium on a largely-flat 174-kilometre stage.

Although a large crash with 30km to go briefly split the peloton, the bunch swept up two day-long breakaways shortly afterwards and a bunch sprint became inevitable.

While Girmay celebrated his second win of the season with an exuberant group of Eritrean fans, both Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) and Van Aert have snatched bonus seconds on the stage to squeeze the gap on overall leader Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ). Evenepoel is now only five seconds back, and Van Aert is in third place at six seconds.

Still on the comeback trail after his crash and concussion in the Tour of Flanders, Girmay has now taken Eritrea’s first-ever win in the Tour de Suisse and Intermarché’s second WorldTour victory of the season, just four days after Georg Zimmerman claimed stage 6 of the Dauphiné.

Looking to be hitting top form in perfect time for the Tour de France, Girmay said afterwards he was “surprised to have won". 

"Two months after my bad crash, I haven’t had enough time to train to be back in top shape. It was surprising and amazing," Girmay said. "I knew that an Eritrean had never won a stage of the Tour de Suisse before, but to win in front of my people - that’s amazing.

“We’ve still got six days of racing so I still need to focus on my race, but next time I win I’ll be celebrating with them.”

A very early attack by Michael Schär (AG2R-Citroën) and Nicholas Zukowsky (Q36.5) quickly turned into the break of the day, gaining over four minutes and allowing Zukowsky to move into the provisional KOM lead on the first two of the day’s climbing challenges, consisting of three category 3 ascents. Meanwhile in the bunch, barring a flurry of activity when Evenepoel darted ahead to claim the final bonus second on offer, for several hours, the day passed largely uneventfully.

However, that changed in an instant when at 31km to go a large crash ripped through the peloton on a flat, straight segment of road, splitting the bunch into two almost equal halves and with several riders ending up on the side of the road. 

The front group opted to sit up while the bulk of those caught up in the crash regained contact, including UAE Team Emirates contender Jay Vine. The undeclared truce also allowed the two ahead to rebuild some of their lead to just over a minute just before the final cat 3 of the day, the third-category Oberarig.

On the climb itself, a steady but not overly-complicated grind, Jumbo-Visma’s climber Sam Oomen almost singlehandedly demolished the duo’s advantage, and as the gradient eased near the summit, Zukowsky opted to go clear. However, Wout van Aert’s decision to take over from his teammate in the chasing group hardly boded well for his chances, and though Zukowsky’s persistence allowed him to make it across the summit of the climb, seconds later he was caught by the Jumbo-led peloton.

A fast descent that followed did not see any major developments, but with some 17 kilometres to go where the road flattened out, the lack of control by the sprinters teams - possibly as a result of support riders being caught up in the big crash -  saw lone efforts begin to go clear. First up the road was Alex Aramburu (Movistar). Once the Basque was sucked in, Van Aert briefly zipped clear to pick up bonus points and seconds at an intermediate sprint and close in on the overall lead.

Into the final 10km and the race remained grouped together, with Arkéa-Samsic, Groupama-FDJ and Israel-Premier Tech all prominent. Such was the speed, even without a clear domination by one team, that when the bunch moved back onto a broad highway and a prolonged, slight downhill leading to the finish, attacks became all but impossible.

Race leader Küng remained snugly in second place as the kilometres ticked down with Groupama-FDJ fighting for the lead and their sprinter Démare, only to see how Alpecin-Deceuninck finally put in a presence for Kaden Groves in the middle of the peloton.

Then after a lengthy segment of straight, flat road brought the sprinters to near-maximum speed, Van Aert tried to go from distance on the gentle-curving right-hand bend leading to the finishing gantry. 

His move was just too early, and Girmay pounded past, winning by a narrow but clear margin over Démare, closing the gap, but still too far to overtake the Eritrean when the stage leaders crossed the finishing line.

Results powered by FirstCycling

2023 Tour de Suisse

 Switzerland |  2nd stage

Stage GCYouthPointsMountainTeam

01GIRMAY Biniam Intermarché-Circus-Wanty03:53:37
02DÉMARE Arnaud Groupama-FDJ+ 00
03VAN AERT Wout Jumbo-Visma+ 00
04BITTNER Pavel Team DSM+ 00
05SAGAN Peter TotalEnergies+ 00
06MEEUS Jordi BORA-hansgrohe+ 00
07GARCÍA CORTINA Iván Movistar Team+ 00
08ARANBURU Alex Movistar Team+ 00
09TEUNISSEN Mike Intermarché-Circus-Wanty+ 00
10BEULLENS Cédric Lotto Dstny+ 00

ERi-TV, Eritrea - ጸብጻብ ዑደት ፕረዚደንት ኢሳይያስ ኣፈወርቂ ኣብ ዋዕላ ደቡብ ኮርያ አፍሪቃ | Reportage on President Isaias Afwerki's visit to South Korea for the South Korea-Africa Summit, held from June 3-4

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