Eritrea’s Girmay takes Giro leg in win for African cycling

Eritrea's Biniam Girmay celebrates on the podium after winning the 10th stage of the Giro D'Italia cycling race from Pescara to Jesi, Italy, Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Massimo Paolone/AP)

JESI, Italy — It’s been a season of firsts for Biniam Girmay, and the Eritrean rider added a stage victory in the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday in his first Grand Tour to raise the profile of African cycling.

The 22-year-old Girmay outsprinted none other than Mathieu van der Poel — one of the top riders in the sport — to win the 10th stage.

“I realize I’m making history but it’s thanks to my team and my family,” Girmay said. “I’m really grateful to them.”

Girmay was then taken to a local hospital after getting injured when he popped a Champagne cork into his eye during the podium celebration.

Spanish rider Juan Pedro Lopez of the Trek-Segafredo team maintained his 12-second lead over João Almeida in the overall standings as the three-week race approached the half-way stage. Romain Bardet is 14 seconds back.

In March, Girmay became the first rider from a sub-Saharan country to win a single-day classic when he triumphed in the Gent-Wevelgem race.

The the first half of the 196-kilometre leg from Pescara to Jesi was mainly flat along the Adriatic coast before three fourth-category climbs later in the day.

Several riders attacked without success on the final climb to Monsano and the ensuing descent.

Girmay nearly missed a turn on the descent but was able to recover in time to rejoin the leaders for the finale.

Girmay started his sprint early and Van der Poel pulled even with him at one point. Then Girmay stepped up the pace and Van der Poel — realizing he had no answer — flashed a thumbs up toward Girmay before the pair crossed the line. The Dutchman was also the first rider to give Girmay a congratulatory hug.

Girmay, who rides for the Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux team, completed the stage in slightly more than 4 1/2 hours. Van der Poel and Vincenzo Albanese crossed second and third, respectively, both with the same time as Girmay.

Stage 11 on Wednesday is an entirely flat 203-kilometre leg from Santarcangelo Di Romagna to Reggio Emilia that is linked to the production of parmesan cheese in the area.

The race ends May 29 in Verona.

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