Biniam Girmay's celebrations on the podium after winning stage 10 of the Giro d'Italia have turned out to be race ending, with the Eritrean confirming on Wednesday morning that he won't be lining up for stage 11.
On Tuesday, Girmay was opening the traditional large bottle of sparkling wine during the podium ceremony when the cork flew out and hit his left eye. According to a statement from the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux team, he has suffered a hemorrhage in the anterior chamber of the left eye.
Girmay was assessed on the scene in Jesi and taken to hospital for checks before returning to his team’s hotel to celebrate his victory, although a decision on his continued participation in the Giro was scheduled for the following morning.
On Wednesday morning, the team issued a video statement from Girmay.
"Today I didn't start the race because of my eye. I need some rest to give more power to the eye," he said.
"Yesterday when I arrived after the hospital, at a bad moment, I enjoyed a bit with my teammates and staff and everyone. I'm also happy now. I was a bit sad about what happened with the champagne but when I came back in hotel they were super happy. They were a bit afraid, but when it looked ok, I really enjoyed it, I'm happy."
Team doctor Piet Daneels explained that Girmay’s eye should make a full recovery, but that continuing in the Giro was not conducive to that.
“His injury is evolving in the right direction and will be followed up by a medical team in the next days. In order to minimize the risk of expansion of the hemorrhage and the intraocular pressure, it is strongly recommended to avoid physical activity,” said Daneels.
“Our priority is a complete healing of the injury and that's why we decided together with the rider and the sports direction that Biniam will not appear at the start of the eleventh stage.”
'See you soon'
The decision takes the 22-year-old Girmay out of his first Grand Tour, but not before delivering his first stage victory and the first for a Black African rider ever. He leapt out of the lead group, taking on a long sprint on the uphill finish and then holding off Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix). It was a reverse of their result of the hilltop Giro opener in Hungary.
Girmay had regularly been within range of the front through the first 10 stages of the Giro d'Italia, as after his second place on stage 1 he then delivered four top-five finishes before making it to the top step.
The stage win at the Giro d'Italia comes after Girmay delivered another watershed moment at Gent-Wevelgem, out-sprinting Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) to take out the cobbled classic.
In his video message, Girmay preferred to focus not on the disappointment of his exit but on the joy of his success beforehand.
"First I say thanks to all my team, thanks to the staff, thanks to everyone at Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert. It was an unbelievable day," he said
"The team did almost 99% from the beginning to the finish. I’m really happy about what they did. Everyone was super motivated before the start, during the race, after the race. We really help each other, support each other. This is a really good atmosphere, and I'm really happy to work with the team and to stay as a teammate with all of the team staff members.
"I say congrats. This victory is not only for me but all the team. They support me and push me. That’s also part of our success at Intermarché. We are still in the beginning so for sure in the future we will continue with more victories.
"Thank you to everyone who supported me and pushed me. I'm OK now. See you soon."
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.