"Of course, when you start the season, you have a schedule and I gave that already to my wife. She accepted it and so did I," said Girmay, whose European base is in San Marino. "But now, to stay one week longer is not easy. I will spend all my time in Eritrea with my family, so that's why it's more important to go home."
Asmara, the world's sixth-highest capital city, also doubles as the ideal training base for Girmay ahead of his next major objective, his Grand Tour debut at May's Giro d'Italia. Rather than Mount Teide or Sierra Nevada, the quiet roads in the hinterland of Girmay's home city will be the site of his Giro preparations.
"Normally I live in the capital, Asmara, and it's at 2,400 metres. That's perfect for me. I don't need to go to altitude in another place," Girmay said. "It's really good cycling country, and a lot of amateur riders train with me when I'm at home. There's a good possibility to train there."
Girmay's historic victory at Gent-Wevelgem came on the back of a remarkable debut on the cobbles at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic 48 hours earlier, when he placed fifth in Harelbeke. That performance prompted Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert to add Gent-Wevelgem to his programme, and his victory now looks set to alter the trajectory of an already promising career.
"I still see myself like before," said Girmay, who admitted that media attention was something he could just as soon live without. "I'm not used to being in front of people like this. This is my first time and I need to take time."
He will have to get used to it quickly. If Girmay's silver medal at last year's under-23 World Championships flagged his potential for the future, then his Gent-Wevelgem victory underscored his ability to win the biggest races in the here and now.
A number of the biggest WorldTour teams, who missed the chance to sign Girmay when the Delko squad ran into financial issues last year, will surely aim to tempt him away from Intermarché when his contract expires in 2024, though they may have their work cut out to do so.
"This team is like family, I would like to continue with this team. Not just for two years but maybe more. I'm really happy with this team," said Girmay, who smiled when asked to outline the Intermarché's plans for his future. "I think you already saw yesterday: this is the project."
Biniam Girmay. © Photo News
© Florian Van Eenoo Photo News