JESI, Italy — It’s been a season of firsts for Biniam Girmay, and the Eritrean rider added a stage victory in the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday in his first Grand Tour to raise the profile of African cycling. Soon after, an accident with a prosecco cork while celebrating his historic win forced him to pull out of the race.
The Eritrean rider became the first Black African to win a stage at a Grand Tour when he beat Mathieu van der Poel in the sprint to the line in Jesi in the 10th stage on Tuesday. But he had to be taken to a local hospital after getting injured when he popped a prosecco cork into his eye during the podium celebration.
The 22-year-old Girmay celebrated with his Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux teammates when he returned from the hospital.
“When I arrived after the hospital, the bad moment, I enjoy a bit with my teammates, the staff, everybody,” Girmay said in a video on his team’s social media channel. “I’m also happy now. I was a bit sad about what happened with the champagne but when I come back to the hotel they were super happy also.
“They were a bit afraid but when I looked OK we really enjoyed. But today luckily I didn’t start the race because still my eyes, I need some rest to give more power to the eye … I’m OK now, see you soon.”
Girmay started his sprint early, and Van der Poel pulled even with him at one point. Then Girmay stepped up the pace, and Van der Poel — realizing he had no answer — flashed a thumbs up toward Girmay before the pair crossed the line. The Dutchman was also the first rider to give Girmay a congratulatory hug.
Girmay, who rides for the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux team, completed the stage in slightly more than 4 ½ hours. Van der Poel and Vincenzo Albanese crossed second and third, respectively, both with the same time as Girmay.
In March, Girmay became the first rider from a sub-Saharan country to win a single-day classic at the Gent-Wevelgem race.
Spanish rider Juan Pedro López of the Trek-Segafredo team maintained his 12-second lead over João Almeida in the overall standings as the three-week Giro approached the half-way stage. Romain Bardet is 14 seconds back.
The Giro ends May 29 in Verona.
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