Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay has become the first Eritrean to win one of cycling’s cobbled classics by taking out the prestigious Gent-Wevelgem race on Sunday.
The 21-year-old out-sprinted a group of four riders in the final 250 metres to claim the biggest victory of his career.
“I never imagined ending this day with a victory,” Girmay said via his Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team after the race.
“It is so difficult to race the Flemish classics without experience.
“I don’t realise what happened yet.
“I want to thank my team for their belief in me.”
Girmay’s tactical lead during the arduous 249km trek through the cobbled streets and sharp climbs of Flanders’ fields was extraordinary.
The Eritrean attached with Christophe Laporte, Dries van Gestel and Jasper Stuyven with 27km to go on the flat run in to the finish after summitting the final cobbled climb.
The select group of four worked together to keep the chasing peloton at bay and set up a dramatic finale.
The victory in such a big race is a huge moment for African cycling. Girmay, who won a silver medal in the under 23 race at last year’s world championships, is flying the flag for black African riders in the peloton.
Girmay was only racing in this Belgian Classic due to a last-minute change of plan after his fifth-place finish in Friday’s E3 Saxo Bank Classic.
With such an assured performance, there have been calls for him to remain in Belgium for next week’s Tour of Flanders.
However, Girmay told newsmen that he will return to Eritrea as planned to see his family, before completing high altitude training ahead of the Giro d’Italia in May.
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