Girmay has been touted as a big talent but his journey to the top of the sport is far from straightforward. Cycling is popular in Eritrea but in terms of pathways to the professional ranks, it lags far behind cycling's European heartlands.
"I'm from the capital city Asmara. That's the cycling zone in Eritrea," Girmay said, explaining his roots. "Every Sunday there's a race, and all the people who like cycling give you a lot of advice. I started when I was 12 years old, at school. I rode mountain bike but then I also started road racing when I was 15."
Girmay's big break was an invite to the UCI's World Cycling Centre, to which he says he owes a big debt of gratitude. The WCC is an initiative of the sport's governing body to develop riders from backgrounds that may ordinarily prevent them from reaching the pro ranks, housing them in Switzerland and offering structured training and access to races.
"I raced a lot of races with them and gained a lot of good experience. When you're young, you come to Europe and you see the peloton - big peloton - and a lot of tactics. Mentally and physically, I grew at the World Cycling Centre."After I won the African Continental Championships - in the TT and the road race - the UCI invited me, so I joined them in 2018 and stayed until the end of 2019. It was really important - one of the most important things," Girmay said.
"It means a lot to me because I went to Europe in 2018 and every year, with every step, every new experience, I learn a lot. It has worked today."
Girmay then signed his first professional contract with the French Delko team for 2020, and he immediately made his mark, winning two stages of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon. He went on to finish runner-up behind Giulio Ciccone at Trofeo Laigueglia, then to Loic Vliegen at Tour du Doubs, as well as picking up four podiums at the Tour du Rwanda and fourth at the Giro della Toscana.
Interest rocketed, WorldTour teams started circling, and, as Delko found themselves in financial and administrative trouble this year, a mid-season transfer to WorldTour outfit Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux was organised for the start of August. He quickly set about winning the GP Besançon Doubs - his first professional victory on European soil.
"When I joined this team I was super happy. I think it's a good team. It's not only a team but a family," he said. "I also say thank you to them for giving me the opportunity and supporting me the past few months. I joined halfway through the season but they gave me the chance immediately to sprint for the win."
Girmay signed a long-term deal with the Belgian team and recently relocated to Lucca, Italy, where there's a sizeable contingent of Eritrean riders. He signed through 2024 - a sign of how highly rated he is - in which time he hopes to hone his skills as a versatile sprinter and start winning bigger and bigger races.
"For now, I'm really looking at the Classics, also some hilly races with a sprint," he said. "This is my best capacity so I'm working for this to be faster in the bunch sprints and on the small uphills. I also want to show the next few years that I can be one of the big riders.
"When I was little, I liked sprinters. I wouldn't say he's my hero, but I like Peter Sagan, not only for his cycling but also outside of cycling. He's really funny and easy-going."
The future appears very bright indeed for Girmay but he is also aware of the potential impact of his silver medal not just in the next few years, or even the rest of his career, but for decades and generations to come.
"In Eritrea our future is bright," he said. "We have really good potential. It's not just from the last years, it's longer.
"We will get more experience, and progress every day mentally and physically. There is a really good future, I think."