Biniam Girmay: “It is still possible for African riders to reach the WorldTour”

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SAINT-SAUVEUR-DE-MONTAGUT, France (VN) – Vice-world under-23 champion on the road in Belgium last September and winner of the Trofeo Alcúdia de Mallorca at the start of the season, the Eritrean Biniam, 21, Girmay is competing in only his second WorldTour stage race this week.

Sixth on the first day of Paris-Nice at Mantes-la-Ville and again on the third stage of the difficult uphill sprint to Dun-le-Palestel, the youngster was the best performer for the Intermarché-Wanty team -Gobert.

Talk to BikeNews just before the start of the fifth stage, Girmay admitted that the stages he was aiming for have now passed but that he still hopes to get a little more out of the “Race to the Sun”, even if it is only a more useful experience of competition at the very highest level, which is still so new for him. “I feel good after the first four days, I still have a lot of motivation, I feel strong, but we’ll see after today,” he said.

“The first three days before the time trial were quite flat, and now we are in the second half of the race where it is more difficult. We have good climbers in the team like Georg Zimmermann and Rein Taaramäe, so I expect us to work for them, but maybe I still have a chance.

Girmay comes from an athletic family that lives in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. As a child footballer, he switched sports when his father, a lifelong cycling fan, bought him a bike in his early teens.

Inspired by the exploits of Daniel Teklahaimanot and Merhawi Kudus, who in 2015 became the first Eritrean riders to compete in the Tour de France, he rose through the junior ranks, his successes leading to the offer of a place at the World Cup. UCI. Cycling Center in Aigle, Switzerland.

Read also : History: Girmay wins the first medal of the road world championships for Eritrea

“It’s a long story on how I got here, but the short version is that after winning two gold medals at the African Championships in 2018, they contacted me and it blew me away. led to going to Switzerland and starting racing in Europe,” he explained. .

Winner of a stage of the Tour du Rwanda and La Tropicale Amissa Bongo in 2019, he left the WCC to join the Marseille team Delko-Provence in 2020 and joined Intermarché in mid-2021. He finished the season on a high, producing a blistering sprint at the U23 World Championship in Leuven, Belgium, to clinch second place, making him the first Eritrean rider to finish on a world podium. He backed that up with a fifth-place finish in the season-ending semi-classic Gran Piemonte.

He considers one-day races his forte at the moment and says he would love to race at Paris-Roubaix, which he did as a junior. Asked about the prospects for other African riders to reach the WorldTour, he insists his example shows it is possible, but acknowledges that the loss of Premier League team Qhubeka at the end of 2021 closed a route that was previously available. .

“Of course the loss of Qhubeka probably made it more difficult, but I think there are still ways for African riders to become pros,” he said. “I managed to find my place in a WorldTour team and I didn’t succeed with Qhubeka, so there is an opportunity for riders to find another way. The UCI World Cycling Center at the UCI is one option, success in African races is another.

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