Africa Union

Cork mishap forces history-making cyclist out of race

Biniam Girmay has been forced to abandon the Giro d'Italia one day after making history as the first black African winner of a Grand Tour stage.

Eritrean Girmay won stage 10 on Tuesday but went to hospital after popping a prosecco cork into his left eye while celebrating on the podium.

Despite later returning to enjoy the victory with his team-mates, he was unfit to make the start on Wednesday.

The Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert rider said he was "OK now" but needed to recover.

"I was a bit sad with what happened with the champagne and my team-mates were a bit afraid," admitted Girmay.

"But today I did not start the race because my eye needs more rest.

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"Yesterday when I arrived after the hospital I enjoyed the win with my team-mates.

"I am OK now. Thank you to everyone for supporting me."

Team doctor Piet Daneels said medical examinations had revealed a hemorrhage in Girmay's left eye and the decision to withdraw him had been taken in order to "minimize the risk" of its expansion.

The 22-year-old, making his Grand Tour debut in Italy, beat Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel in an exciting sprint for the line in Jesi.

Girmay described his win as "unbelievable" immediately after the stage, but he was unable to attend a post-race news conference after being taken to hospital.

"First I say thanks to all my team, the staff and everybody," added Girmay. "The team did almost 99% from the beginning of the stage to the finish.

"I'm really happy with what the team did. Everybody was super motivating before the race. This victory was for all the team."

Stage 11 – a flat 203km route from Santarcangelo di Romagna to Reggio Emilia – would have presented the 22-year-old with the opportunity to secure another memorable victory.

Girmay, who was denied victory by Van der Poel on the Giro's opening stage, became the first black African to win a World Tour race at Belgium's Gent-Wevelgem classic in March.

Artmotion S.Africa

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