'I will remain the same man as yesterday': Biniam Girmay won't get ahead of himself after historic Classics victory

The Eritrean said the victory at Gent-Wevelgem was 'important' for African cycling

Biniam Girmay 2022
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Despite being the first African rider to win a cobbled Classic and appreciating how huge that is, Biniam Girmay will skip the Tour of Flanders to head home to his family.

The Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert rider made history by winning Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, and told the media on Monday that he realises "how important this is for our continent".

However, he is firm that he will return to Eritrea ahead of coming back to Europe to race the Giro d'Italia in May. 

"I want to go back home," he said. "My family is the most important thing in my life. More important than the bike, yes. It was my plan now to go home to wife and daughter. I want to stick to that plan.

"For three months, my wife has been taking care of the baby and everything. I'm in good shape, but I'm still following my plan. We will [do the Tour of Flanders] in the future. This is the beginning, so we have a lot of time."

Asked if he realises how momentous a result his victory was, Girmay said: "Yes, I do. I realise how important this is for our continent. I am the first African to win a top Classic. That silver at last year's U23 World Cup was also nice, but this is so much bigger. 

"This is one of the largest races in the world. Downside: it will also create the necessary pressure.”

He described the attention he has received since the win as "crazy".

"As a rider I am happy with that attention, because it means that you have achieved something," Girmay explained. "But actually I don't like being in the spotlight like that. Cycling and winning is fun. But I really never aspired to be famous. Also, I don't see myself as a role model. I am and will remain the same man as yesterday.”

The Intermarché rider explained that he had already planned his season with his wife, who lives back home with his child in Asmara.

"Of course, when you start the season, you have a schedule and I gave that already to my wife. She accepted it and so did I," he said. "But now, to stay one week longer is not easy. I will spend all my time in Eritrea with my family, so that's why it's more important to go home."

He described this result as "just the beginning" and knows that at 21 he has time to return to Belgium to tackle the other Classics in the future, whatever the cycling world, the media, and his team expect of him.

Girmay will ride the Giro d'Italia in May, his first Grand Tour, and his time back in Asmara will help towards that. It is the world's sixth-highest capital city, perfect for altitude training.

"Normally I live in the capital, Asmara, and it's at 2,400 metres. That's perfect for me. I don't need to go to altitude in another place," he said. "It's really good cycling country, and a lot of amateur riders train with me when I'm at home. There's a good possibility to train there."

Asked about the possibility of a stage win or targeting the points jersey in Italy, he said: “Everything is coming to me quickly now. We will see. I don't know the Giro yet. But you never know.”

Girmay signed for Intermarché off the back of the demise of the Delko team, and has a contract with the Walloon squad until 2024. While this result will have caught the eye of bigger teams, the Eritrean reiterated his commitment to his current home.

"This team is like family, I would like to continue with this team. Not just for two years but maybe more. I'm really happy with this team. I think you already saw yesterday: this is the project."

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