Tsgabu Grmay on Lampre-Merida's Tour de France long list

Ethiopian set for big 2016 having secured Rio Olympics start

Having ridden and finished the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España in his first season with Lampre-Merida, Tsgabu Grmay is on the long list to make his Tour de France debut in July. The 24-year-old would be the first Ethiopian cyclist to start the French grand tour should he make the nine-rider team.

"I've done the Vuelta and Giro, which was a really good experience and now I am looking to get a good result and really fight in the race and help my team to make a good result," Grmay told Cyclingnews at the Tour Down Under where he helped teammate Louis Meintjes to 16th place overall.

"I am looking to do the Tour de France, that's my biggest goal this year, I hope I will make it but I start with a really good feeling at this race. I am excited and ready to fight."

12-months ago Grmay was one of just two African riders in the Tour Down Under. In 2016, not only were there six African starters but Africa's first WorldTour team, Dimension Data, made its debut in the race.

MTN-Qhubeka's appearance in the 2015 Tour de France as a wildcard selection was one of the highlights of the race. Steve Cummings' stage 14 victory was sporting confirmation of the team's place at the Tour, as was Daniel Teklehaimanot's stint in the polka dot jersey. The Eritrean crowds that greeted Teklehaimanot and countrymen Merhawi Kudus at each stage start and finish were emblematic of African support and enthusiasm for the sport.

A Tour de France start for Grmay would be confirmation of the growing presence of African riders in the WorldTour and further opportunity to enjoy the infectious support of African cycling fans.

"Always, not only in this race, but African riders around the world are getting better and the numbers are also getting more. It's great to see African riders in the big race," he noted of the growth.

Olympic ambitions

Grmay rode for MTN-Qhubeka, Dimension Data's previous team name, before moving across to the Lampre-Merida squad. His presence on the team was a factor in Meintjes making the same move at the end of last season who is likely to also receive a Tour de France call up.

In Grmay's first season with the Italian team, he finished 11th at the Tour Down Under, won the African Continental time trial title, rode Tirreno-Adriatico, Volta a Catalunya and the Tour de Romandie as well as winning the Ethiopian road and time trial titles. Grmay's results saw him earn selection for the Rio Olympic Games in August later this year, where he will become the 24th Ethiopian cyclist to represent his country at the Olympic Games.

Guremu Demboba, Mesfen Tesfaye, Negousse Mengistou and Zehaye Bahta were Ethiopia's first Olympic representatives, riding the 1956 Melbourne Games. Demboba was the best finisher in the road race, won by Italy's Ercole Baldini, crossing the line in 25th place. The quartet would also finish ninth in the team road race, one place ahead of hosts Australia, held on the same day as the road race.

While several riders will be fighting for Olympic selection, Grmay can race safely in the knowledge his place in Rio is secure where the parcours will suit his climbing characteristics. Before then, Grmay will focus on making history by earning selection for La Grande Boucle. 

"I already qualified for the Olympics, and I am looking forward to it also. Just to qualify for the Olympics was a big thing for me and I did it, I am excited to go the Olympics with all our runners," he said. "It's really great for me, it's something special for our country that will send cyclist and runners to the Olympics." 

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