The Intermarché-Circus-Wanty team has seen a meteoric rise in the professional cycling world in recent years, making their mark with impressive performances in major races around the world culminating in recently being ranked number 1 on the UCI ranking. The road to success hasn't always been easy for this Belgian-based team though. The earliest years of Intermarché-Circus-Wanty were marked by humble beginnings and a drive to succeed in the face of limited resources and support.
The team was founded in 2007 by Jean-François Bourlart under the name Storez - Ledecq Matériaux. Bourlart is at the head of the team to this day. The team was registered as a Continental team, which meant they could only compete in smaller regional races. Riders from this era of the team might still sound familiar as they grew through the ranks and sometimes even into the WorldTour. Thomas Degand and Jonas van Genechten were there from the very start. Degand raced for the team for almost his entire 14 year career with the exception of 1 year spent at IAM Cycling in the 2015 season.
A year later, in 2008, the team changed its name to Groupe Gobert.com.ct, a sponsor name that would remain associated with the team for over a decade in various forms. However, the arrival of Verandas Willems as a new sponsor in 2009 resulted in the name disappearing as the title sponsor for a while. This season got them their first 1.x victory by the hands, or legs if you will, of Romain Zingle at Circuit de Wallonie. For the Walloon team, this was a major goal for the year. The staff team was expanded with Thierry Marichal, who retired 2 years earlier as a rider from the Française des Jeux Pro Tour Team.
Over the next few seasons, the team experienced steady growth, nurturing young talents such as Jaco Venter and Jempy Drucker. They eventually rose to become a Pro Continental Team, with access to a larger racing calendar. However, the team was dealt a devastating blow in 2012, when Rob Goris passed away at the age of 30 due to a heart attack in his sleep, the night after appearing on Belgian TV as a guest on Vive Le Velo. It was a tragic loss that shook the team to its core.
In 2013, the team's name changed again with the introduction of a new sponsor that would stick around. Wanty became a title sponsor, and the team became Accent.jobs – Wanty. Although victories remained scarce for the team, their fortunes were about to change.
A new start
With the collapse of Vacansoleil – DSM at the end of 2013, a large amount of talented riders and staff was released onto the jobs market. This is when the team transforms into something closer of what it is today. Hilaire Van der Schueren was hired as a Sports Director, and the team signed the out-of-contract Björn Leukemans. Leukemans' presence guaranteed wildcards for some of the biggest classics of the season, including the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
The team seized the opportunity, making it into the breakaway in both races, and establishing their reputation as breakaway specialists with a captivating racing style. With a 9th place at Flanders Finest and a 15th place at Roubaix, their classics campaign could be considered a success. The team also started to participate in races in Africa, where it dominates the La Tropicale Amissa Bongo by winning 4 out of 7 stages. The team would close out the 2014 season with another 6 wins, to make it 10 in total.
The next few seasons were a continuation of their 2014 successes, with the team winning smaller races thanks to riders such as Leukemans, Jans, Dehaes, and Bougnies. Meanwhile, the signing of the French young talent Guillaume Martin by Wanty -Groupe Gobert would prove pivotal, as the organizers of Tour de France, ASO, wanted to see what the youngster could do in their race. This led to a series of wildcards for the team at the Tour, where they spent day upon day in the breakaway.
Now part of the World Tour in 2021, the team's tactics remained largely unchanged. Their attacking racing style and talent for making it into the breakaway were finally rewarded, with Taco van der Hoorn clinching Stage 3 of Giro d’Italia, marking the team's first win at a World Tour race. It was the perfect embodiment of the team's spirit of offensive riding as Van der Hoorn held off a sprinting peloton with a 4-second lead. Rein Taaramäe would repeat the same feat later that year, winning Stage 3 of the Vuelta a España on top of the Picon Blanco and earning himself the red leader's jersey, which he wore for two stages.
2021 was also the year when the team, now known as Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux, signed Eritrean super talent Biniam Girmay, who immediately proved his worth by winning the Classic Grand Besançon Doubs as a trainee.
Their breakout year came in 2022 when they clinched three Grand Tour stages and Gent-Wevelgem, their first one-day classic at the World Tour level. They were on the 2nd step of the podium at Liège-Bastogne-Liège with Quinten Hermans and gott a 7th place at Tour de France GC with Louis Meintjes, as well as a 6th and 8th place in Giro d’Italia GC with Jan Hirt and Domenico Pozzovivo.
The team has a history of taking on riders that other teams consider to be spent and giving their career a new lease of life. Leukemans was the blueprint for this strategy, which was successfully replicated with riders such as Domenico Pozzovivo, Alexander Kristoff, and now former World Champion Rui Costa. At the same time, Intermarché-Circus-Wanty has an established development and cyclocross program through Circus - ReUz – Technord where talents can be given time to develop at the Continental level.
The rise of the Intermarché-Circus-Wanty Cycling team is a story of determination, hard work, and teamwork. It's a story of a team that refused to give up and continued to push themselves to be better, even when the odds were against them. And it's a story that's far from over – with so much talent and potential on this team, there's no telling what they'll achieve in the years to come.