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‘Girmay crossed the finish line alone, but we all won today’ | weekly cycling

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Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay (Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux) made history today by becoming the first black African rider to win a Grand Tour stage.

The 22-year-old Dutch superstar beat Mathieu van der Poel in the sprint to win the 10th stage of the Giro d’Italia. Praising Girmay for his superb finish, the Dutchman gave Girmay a boost as he crossed the line in second.

Some 1,200 kilometers away, American professional rider and POC lawyer Ayesha McGowan burst into an “OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG” at her home in Girona.

In 2021, McGowan herself made history by becoming the first African-American woman to be signed to a professional road cycling team.

“With the way Biniam rode it was only a matter of time. I’m honored to have seen this in my lifetime,” the Liv Racing–Xstra rider told Cycling Weekly.

“To see a black man on the top step of the Tour of Italy is no small thing when it comes to representation in cycling. Many people paved the way to make it a reality and Biniam Girmay made them extremely proud. He crossed the finish line alone, but we all won today.

On the express train to world stardom, Girmay has racked up one historic cycling milestone after another.

In September last year, the youngster became the first black African rider to step onto the podium in the history of the UCI Road World Championships. He did so by winning the silver medal in the U-23 road race. He followed that up by becoming the first African winner of a Spring Classic by beating Christophe Laporte, Jasper Stuyven and Dries Van Geste to win the Gent-Wevelgem WorldTour last March.

And it’s still only his first full season on the World Tour, after being transferred from the French team UCI Pro Team Delko ( (now gone) ) at Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux last August.

“He is an inspiration,” commented McGowan. “And for me, the most exciting thing is to see him get the respect from his peers that he deserves.”

Which was easy to see on the screen. Van der Poel was the first to congratulate the Eritrean, even before he got off his bike. This was followed by maglia rosa winner Juan Pedro López, who wrapped the 22-year-old in a hug.

McGowan made history by becoming the first African-American woman to sign to a professional road cycling team in 2021.

(Image credit: Liv Racing)

Is cycling progressing?

“I feel like it’s happening at a snail’s pace, but it’s happening,” McGowan said.

“Especially in Eritrea, a lot of effort has gone into developing talent, creating opportunities and bringing people out. He’s not the first person to come out of this country with talent, he’s just the first person who can really get to the top and cross the finish line that way. While people may view this as just him being really talented and working really hard, which is absolutely true, I think it would be a disservice to ignore all the effort that has gone into building this path to bring him to a place where he could succeed in the first place.

This development is also happening in the United States, McGowan acknowledged. The racially diverse L39ion Los Angeles and Miami Blazers teams are changing what cycling looks like.

McGowan has struggled with health issues all season, forcing her to drop out of the majority of races she has started. As such, she said there was little chance she would be the first black American to copy Girmay’s feat in the Women’s Giro later this year.

“The chances of that happening to me are pretty slim if I’m being honest with myself. But I think there’s a lot going on in the background right now and talent that’s been developed with a lot of potential for the near future,” she said. “So maybe we’re not that far away. I think it’s very possible in the next few years to see [more Black American in the WorldTour].”

In all the celebrations and history that Girmay makes this season, McGowan warned that it’s important to remember that, as talented as he is, Girmay is only one man.

“I hope people understand that it’s exciting, it’s fun, but it shouldn’t become a situation where now that he’s done it, he has to keep doing it. I think he does. will do because he’s talented, but there’s been a lot of talk about him having the weight of the whole community, the whole country on his shoulders, which seems really unfair,” she said.

“He’s really good, he’s having a great time, he’s going and I think everyone can see that it’s not a fluke. I think he’s going to have a really important career, and that’s okay. be really fun to watch.”