Biniam Girmay of Eritrea on Tuesday became the first Black African cyclist to win a stage of one of the Grand Tours.
Girmay won the 10th stage of the Giro d’Italia — one of three Grand Tours, alongside the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España — outsprinting Mathieu van der Poel of the Netherlands to the finish in Jesi, Italy.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said just after the race.
But Girmay missed the post-race news conference after being hit in the eye with a cork during a celebration. On Wednesday, he dropped out of the Giro, saying his eye needed rest. Doctors said he had a hemorrhage in his eye.
At the top level, the cycling peloton is overwhelmingly white. Most riders are European, with some North and South Americans thrown in. No Black Africans even competed in the Tour de France until 2015, when Girmay’s countrymen Daniel Teklehaimanot and Merhawi Kudus took part.
Girmay, ranked 31st in the world going into the day, is the only African in the current world cycling top 100.
Girmay, 22, finished second in the under-23 road race world championship last fall. That made him the first Black African to win any medal at a road race world championship. He really stamped himself onto the pro cycling scene in March with another first: He became the first Black African to win a race on the World Tour, at Ghent-Wevelgem in Belgium.
He has been performing well at the Giro, his first Grand Tour, with five top-five finishes, so a stage win was something that seemed to be a matter of time. Before the Giro, he told reporters, “The Grand Tours are always in my dream — it’s all African cyclists’ dream to win.”