RSNplusGent-Wevelgem winner looks forward to Eritrea
By Peter Maurer from Wevelgem
Girmay is over the moon celebrating his victory in Ghent-Wevelgem ahead of Christophe Laporte (left) and Dries van Gestel | Photo: Cor Vos
27/03/2022 | (rsn) – The Eritrean Biniam Girmay (Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert) was the surprise of Gent-Wevelgem. Not top favorite Wout Van Aert (Jumbo – Visma) was the winner after 248.8 kilometers, but the 21-year-old from Africa. Girmay had already won in Belgium with silver at the U23 World Championships in Leuven (Netherlands) last year. In January, he won the Trofeo Alcúdia in Mallorca and now his first spring classic in Belgium.
“Since the beginning of the season, I have surprised myself from race to race,” the Eritrean said at the post-race press conference, laughing. On Friday at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, he drove his first ever excursion on the Belgian sidewalk and immediately finished as number five: “I never expected to be that far up there. I just kicked, kicked and kicked, and then I was there still close to the best drivers. ” ___STEADY_PAYWALL___
With this driving style, he was always ahead in Ghent-Wevelgem. With the help of his team, including the Norwegian Alexander Kristoff, who himself wins the Tour of Flanders 2015, he even survived the difficult phase when, after the third crossing of Kemmelberg, a leadership group of seven men formed around Van Aert.
Girmay in the leading group with Laporte, van Gestel and Jasper Stuyven | Photo: Cor Vos
“Of course it’s great that my team has chosen me as captain. I really suffered during the race, especially when I lost my good position. But with the help of my teammates I came back,” said Girmay, who then got a smart connection. to a counter attack by Van Aert’s teammate Christophe Laporte, who ultimately decided the race.
Girmay placed at the end of the group of four in the sprint and opened the final sprint in first place with 250 meters left. “I waited because I have my strength in the short sprint. 250 meters is the ideal distance, and when I saw the sign, I closed my eyes and pulled through,” reported Girrmay, who saved a small lead over Laporte over the finish line. but had already spread his arms in celebration.
When Girmay crosses the finish line first, he senses that he has just achieved something big | Photo: Cor Vos
“No one could expect me to win. I was fighting for a podium up to 300 meters from the finish line because I knew Laporte is a world-class sprinter,” said Girmay, who still felt strong with 250 meters left: “There I realized for the first time that I can actually win. “
Homecoming after three long months in Europe
Even after the award ceremony, he still could not believe in his success. “This is such a great race and so important a victory for African cycling,” Girmay was aware of the importance of his success. “We have always put good cyclists out, but winning a Belgian classic is huge. I hope this opens the door even more for cycling in Africa,” he added.
In January, Girmay won the Trofeo Alcudia in Mallorca. | Photo: Cor Vos
He described his countrymen as very passionate about cycling, but they only know the great national tours and the classics like Paris-Roubaix. Gent-Wevelegem could not be seen live in his home. Eritrea only gets the pictures of the current bike races via international channels.
With 300 yards left, he realized he could win
After two races, he has liked the paved sections. “We will definitely see each other again here in Belgium next year. The fans on the pitch were simply unique,” promised Girmay, who surprisingly won without the great pitch experience. “Our sporting directors guided me well through the many turns. We had inspected the course carefully. We received information over the radio before each obstacle and knew exactly when we should be in position,” explained the new tactics from Wanty Team, which now flies home in instead of to Around Flanders.
“That was the plan months ago and we have to stick to it. I haven’t seen my family in three months,” he says with nostalgia. Girmay will probably be awaited by a big reception in Azmara, as he has been one of the country’s galleon figures most recently since the World Cup.
But he does not have much time to visit his family, for he must soon prepare for his next climax. This is his first GrandTour in May, the Giro d’Italia.