In 2016 Tsgabu Grmay made history by becoming the first Ethiopian to race to the Tour de France but had little time to reflect as he jetted off to Rio for the Olympic Games. Having made the move to Bahrain-Merida from Lampre-Merida in the off-season, the 25-year-old is aiming for results at July's Grand Tour while supporting the team's general classification aspirations.
With 'new motivation' and 'extra energy' compared to the previous two years that he started his season at the Tour Down Under, a buoyant Grmay explained to Cyclingnews that he is all in to make a mark on the Tour de France in July.
"We are going again to the Tour, that is my plan, and getting more results because last year it was all about starting the Tour de France," he explained. "I want to make new things for Africa, to my people, because they saw now it is possible to do the Tour de France and I want to show more. Maybe also getting a Tour result and making history. For me, that is my biggest inspiration to get to the Tour and make a good result."
A three-time national road and time trial champion, Grmay wore the Ethiopian champion's jersey on his Grand Tour debut at the 2015 Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana later that year. He again rode and finished two Grand Tours in 2016, returning to the Vuelta where he was 62nd overall for his best result yet in a three-week race.
September's Vuelta was a world away from Grmay's 2015 Giro where, through fear of a hunger knock in the high mountains, managed to add two kilograms to his 63km frame. In 2017, Grmay, with coach Michele Bartoli, has devised a training programme to ensure he isn't gaining weight in the Grand Tours. Even though then Lampre-Merida team doctors saw his weight gain as a good sign as revealed by ProCycling magazine last year.
"I do 100% what my coach gives me in training, on the bike and off the bike and I follow the nutrition as well so I get more muscle and losing some kilos so still the same," he said.
With Vincenzo Nibali targeting the Giro d'Italia as his first major goal for a team largely created for his continued general classification aspirations, the Bahrain-Merida squad for the Italian Grand Tour is almost complete. The makeup of its squad for the Tour though is less clear but, regardless, Grmay is ready to work for a team leader and, when possible, continue to make history for African cycling on the biggest stage of all.
"At the Tour, we won't have a leader so the main goal for the team is to have a good GC, or to make individual results on the stage. So when I have form myself, for sure I will go for it but the biggest thing for me will be to support the leader. That is the main goal," he added.