Girmay voted best African Cyclist of 2021 after historic Worlds display

Biniam Girmay of Eritrea rides to a silver medal in U23 road race at the 2021 UCI Road World Championships
Biniam Girmay of Eritrea rides to a silver medal in U23 road race at the 2021 UCI Road World Championships (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Biniam Girmay has been named African Cyclist of the Year for the second successive season following his historic silver medal in the under-23 road race at the World Championships in Leuven.

The Eritrean won the sprint for second place behind solo winner Filippo Baroncini (Italy), becoming the first Black African to win a medal at the road World Championships.

Girmay began 2021 with Delko before making a mid-season transfer to the WorldTour to join Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux. His contract with the Belgian team continues through the 2024 season.

He quickly showcased his talent with strong displays at the Tour de Pologne before he landed his first victory in Europe at the Classic Grand Besançon Doubs, where he won from a break that included Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Nairo Quintana (Team Arkea-Samsic).

After his medal-winning display at the Worlds, the 21-year-old completed his campaign with fifth-place finishes at both La Route Adélie and Gran Piemonte.

The African Cyclist of the Year award has been run by the organisers of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo since 2012, and Girmay is the second rider to claim the prize twice, after Louis Meintjes was voted the winner in 2013 and 2017.

Girmay was the fifth Eritrean to win the award after Natnael Berhane (2012), Mekseb Debesay (2014), Daniel Teklehaimanot (2015) and Tesfom Okubarmariam (2016). The other winners were Rwandan Joseph Areruya in 2018 and South African Daryl Impey in 2019.

The 25-person selection committee was this year chaired by Bernard Hinault, and Girmay was voted the 2021 African Cyclist ahead of Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates) and Merhawi Kudus (Astana).

Henok Muluebrhan (Qhubeka-NextHash) took fourth place in the voting, with Girmay’s Intermarché teammate Meintjes placing fifth.

“Biniam Girmay confirmed again this year that he is the most promising rider of African cycling,” Hinault said. “His performance at the world championship was not achieved by accident. The best riders of his generation were present in Leuven and he finished second. Fantastic! This is a well-deserved recognition.” 

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