Story author: Biniam Ghirmay wins first world road medal for Eritrea

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Biniam Ghirmay, remember that name.

The 21-year-old emerged from the swirling chaos of the peloton in the closing meters of Friday’s U23 men’s road race at the world championships to make history.

Sneaking through runner after runner, finally dropping Olev Kooij (Netherlands) shortly before the line, he rushed to the silver medal just behind Italy’s Filippo Baroncini, and became the first Eritrean runner to win a medal at the world road championships.

“For me, for my nation, and also for Africans, it means a lot to have this medal. I am really proud of my nation, ”said Ghirmay during his post-race press conference in Leuven. “I must congratulate all of Eritrea and all Africans.

Read also : Filippo Baroncini wins crash-ridden Under-23 road race as Eritrea reaches historic podium

“My family told me, for sure you can take a medal,” he said. “I say thank you to my family who supported me, they give me great motivation every day.

“When I started the sprint I was a little nervous, but I was just thinking about one of the medals. I did, so I’m happy with my place.

Eritrean cyclists have been rising steadily in the European peloton since Daniel Teklehaimanot became the country’s first cyclist to compete in the Olympics and complete a grand tour in 2012.

There are now four riders from the African country at WorldTour level – a small number compared to many European nations, but that’s no small feat given the logistical challenges many Africans face.

Behind those four are a growing number of promising talent rising through the ranks, and Ghirmay doesn’t want his result to be an anomaly but a sign of what’s to come.

“I hope we can do even better than that, maybe after that second in the next few years it will be the rainbow jersey,” said Ghirmay. “I think the future is bright for Eritrean runners. We have great potential and a bright future. It’s not just in the last few years, but for a long time.

“We are gaining more experience and progressing physically and mentally every day and we continue to work and fight to be at WorldTour level,” he said. “It’s been happening for a long time and I’m happy to see myself in this group. There is a very good future for the next few years.

Become a classic man

Ghirmay started cycling as a pre-teenager, first mountain biking before discovering his talents on the road.

He made a name for himself as a future cycling star when he won the African national championships in 2018. After helping his country in the team time trial relay, he won the individual TT title up close. of a minute, then won the road. race title of a two-man sprint.

“I come from the capital Asmara. This is the cycling zone in Eritrea and every Sunday there is a race, ”said Ghirmay. “I started at 12 years old in a racing school, then I went mountain biking and I also started road racing at 15 years old.

“I arrived in Europe in 2018 with the UCI [World Cycling Center]. After winning the African Continental Championships, they invited me to run internationally. I have done a lot of races with them and have gained a lot of experience. It means a lot to me because I went to Europe in 2018, every year and every step, and every new experience, I learned a lot and it worked well today.

Ghirmay is the newest member of Eritrean group WorldTour after signing for Belgian Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert last month. He started his tenure in the team with eighth place in the opening stage of the Tour of Poland.

His first victory for them came soon after at the Classic Grand Besançon Doubs after joining a group of attackers including Thibaut Pinot and Nairo Quintana.

Most Eritrean runners turned professional are good climbers – which is not surprising given that the country’s capital sits over 2,300m above sea level – but Ghirmay is on another level. mussel.

His silver medal in Flanders is proof of his talents as a sprinter and he wants to develop this talent and become a good classic runner, like one of his favorite runners, Peter Sagan.

“Right now I’m looking forward to the classic races and some hilly races,” he said. “I think my sprint is the best ability I have, so I’m working to get faster in tuck sprints and small climbs.”



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