Biniam Girmay’s win at the 2022 Gent-Wevelgem achieved one of those sublime reactions in cycling media: universal approval rating. In cycling, as in all sports, different riders elicit different reactions. It is rare that a winner of a big race produces a reaction from nearly everyone going in the same positive direction. But when Girmay won on that day, the positive reactions were everywhere.
The reason why, in part, comes down to Girmay’s positivity and style. In every interview and nearly every photo the Eritrean is happy, positive and smiling. On the bike, his pedal stroke and fluidity is captivating. But there is more to his popularity. For a sport that is growing and becoming more international, Girmay’s win is one that raises the hope that he is ushering in a new continent into competitive cycling and with it new and exciting talent from Africa.
In a new GCN+ documentary, the story of African cycling is brought into focus with a look at the Tour of Rwanda, the young riders that are inspired by the Black African trail blazers in Europe and what riders like Girmay can mean for the future of African competition. In the documentary, GCN speaks with so many different voices, including Girmay, Doug Ryder and Chris Froome, involved with bringing African cycling to global prominence, while showing the vivacity of the racing in the continent at the Tour of Rwanda.
Furthermore, with the continent having a higher percentage of unpaved roads than paved, the documentary highlights the work of the well funded Team Amani and the Migration Race. Team Amani goes even outside of cycling with its work with African riders on nutrition and academic education.
Biniam Girmay’s recent successes have shown that African cycling is on the up, ready at last to follow athletics and football into the big time. But why has it taken so long, and what’s needed to take it all the way? Set against the beauty and battles of the Tour of Rwanda, we explore the past, present and future of riders from Eritrea, South Africa, Rwanda and more, meeting Girmay and the rising stars hot on his heels, as well as the people passionate about giving these riders the opportunities they deserve.
Check out the trailer for the new documentary Breaking Through: The Rise of African Cycling above and be sure to subscribe to GCN+ to watch a deep archive of bespoke cycling documentaries, as well as live racing from across the calendar and around the world.