Ethiopian national champion Tsgabu Grmay is making his debut with Lampre-Merida at the Tour Down Under having joined the Italian team after three season with MTN-Qhubeka. The 23-year-old climber is the only Ethiopian in the WorldTour peloton and along side Daryl Impey, the only Africans racing this January in Adelaide, but is excited by the start to the season at a new race with a new team.
"The racing is fast and nice," Grmy told Cyclingnews of his impression of the Tour Down Under. "My preparation was good and my training was good as well."
"It's my first WorldTour race with the team and I like it," he added. Grmy made his WorldTour debut back in 2013 at Il Lombardia registering a DNF.
Despite the cultural and language differences, Grmy explained that his move to Lampre-Merida has been seamless.
"I have good teammates and we have been working well and closely together. Everything is perfect, the people who support have been really nice to me, and it's all nice. I like it."
Wearing the national jersey as champion of Ethiopia that he won in June last year has further enhanced his first impressions of the new team.
"It gives you a lot of added motivation and emotion," he said of the jersey. It is really nice to be racing in the national jersey and be the champion of Ethiopia."
Lampre-Merida entered the race with riders capable of showing themselves on both the climbs and sprints. Grmy’s leadership role within the team on his debut speaks volumes of the trust that Lampre-Merida have placed in the new recruit, and he is keen to pay that back.
For me, to be here [in Australia] is a really big opportunity and it is an opportunity I want to make the most of," he said.
"I am at the same time as the GC guys so I will go for myself and we also have our sprinter, Niccolò Bonifazio, who I will help him but then I will go for myself on the climb."
After Adelaide, Grmy will return home for another block of training before he heads across to Europe to resume his season.
"I will go back to Ethiopia for some more training. After that, I'll head to Europe and hopefully do Volta a Catalunya," he said.
With MTN-Qhubeka making its debut at the Tour de France, Grmy is hoping that he join his former teammates is racing a three-week event and further increase the presence of Africans in the peloton.
"My goal this year is to do one of the grand tours," he said of his 2015 objective.
Whether this becomes the year in which African cycling blossoms, Grmy added, "I think so, I think so."