When Biniam Girmay chased Mathieu van de Poel across the line in the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia last weekend, he offered further proof that Eritrea is an African hotbed of cycling. In March, six days before his 22nd birthday, Girmay signalled his all-round potential at Gent-Wevelgem, becoming the first African to win one of cycling’s one-day classics. He follows in the ground-breaking tyre tracks of Natnael Berhane who won the Tour of Turkey in 2013 and Daniel Teklehaimanot who in 2015 wore the attention-grabbing polka dot jersey as Tour de France King of Mountains leader for four days. Girmay, poised and polished off the bike and a dangerous all-rounder on it, has the potential to take Eritrean cycling to a new level.
“I wondered if Eritrean cycling wasn’t running out of steam,” Michel Theze, a coach at the World Cycling Center run by the UCI, told reporters.
Girmay’s success “comes at the best time, it will provide a second wind,” Theze said.
“It is a confirmation of the great potential that exists there”. While Chris Froome, a winner of all three major tours, was born in Kenya and spent much of his childhood in South Africa, he races for Britain. South Africa is a cycling power but, with the exception of Nic Dlamini, its stars, led by Daryl Impey, are white.Mathieu Van Der Poel (NED – Alpecin – Fenix) – Biniam Girmay (ERI – Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux)