Biniam Girmay: Eritrean becomes first African to win a one-day classic with Gent-Wevelgem victory
Biniam Girmay made history as the first African cyclist to win a one-day classic as he triumphed in the Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.
“It’s unbelievable, amazing. I did not expect this,” said the Eritrean, 21.
“We just changed my plan a few days ago on Friday. We just came for a good result. This race is amazing, unbelievable.”
Girmay was part of a four-rider breakaway in the last 30km and sprinted to victory with 250m to go.
“This changes a lot in the future, especially for all African riders,” Intermarche-Wanty Gobert rider Girmay added.
Jumbo-Visma’s Christophe Laporte tried to chase him down but the Frenchman was beaten on the line.
The 248.8km Gent-Wevelgem, which includes a cobbled section, is often seen as a warm-up for Belgium’s biggest race – next week’s the Tour of Flanders – which is the second Monument classic of the season.
“I suffered on the cobbles, it’s not exactly comfortable,” said Girmay on what was his first race on cobbles.
“When it came to the sprint I knew the others were strong, but I felt confident.”
Girmay is not scheduled to take part in Flanders.
The women’s race was won by road world champion Elisa Balsamo for Trek-Segafredo.
The highest-placed British rider was Pfeiffer Georgi in 15th for Team DSM.
Colombia’s Sergio Higuita won the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya overall, ahead of Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz of Ineos Grenadiers.
Higuita, racing for Bora-Hansgrohe, won the green and white jersey after finishing the week-long event 16 seconds ahead of Carapaz and 52 seconds ahead of Portugal’s Joao Almeida of UAE-Team Emirates.
Britain’s Ethan Vernon of Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl won his first ever World Tour stage in Friday’s sprint finish into Vilanova i la Geltru.
Sunday’s final stage was won by Vernon’s team-mate Andrea Bagioli of Italy.
The highest-place Briton overall was Hugh Carthy of EF Education-EasyPost in 27th, 18 minutes 15 seconds down.
The race was earlier marred by the collapse of Italian rider Sonny Colbrelli of Bahrain Victorious on stage one after an uphill sprint finish.
The Italian rider required defibrillation behind screens near the finish line and was taken to hospital in Girona for further checks.
He was released on Sunday to return to Italy for further tests.