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Eritrea's Girmay ready to become first Black African to win on Tour de France

Biniam Girmay won in a bunch sprint at the 2022 Giro d'Italia
Biniam Girmay won in a bunch sprint at the 2022 Giro d'ItaliaReuters
Biniam Girmay (24) is the first Black African rider to win a stage in a grand tour and starting on Saturday, the Eritrean will be looking to prevail again at the biggest cycling event of all, the Tour de France.

Girmay won in a bunch sprint at the 2022 Giro d'Italia and quickly turned his sight towards becoming the first Black African to win on the Tour too, but on his first attempt last year he found the level was higher than at any other race.

"Last year I was really nervous before the start. It's the biggest race in the world and to be part of that made me really nervous, and I panicked from the start to the end of the Tour," Girmay told Reuters on Friday ahead of his second Tour.

"It's a different race, you need to prepare well mentally, and I think this year will be different."

Girmay admitted that last year, he was caught by surprise by the intensity of the Tour de France.

"The first thing I learned is that it's a different atmosphere than other races, even Monument (classics) or the Giro," he explained.

"The level of the riders especially in sprint stages, it's crazy. (On the Giro) the peloton starts to gear up for the sprint 10km (from the finish) but on the Tour, it starts 55, 60 km (from the line).

"The best sprinters in the world are here and that makes the race harder and the (general classification) guys need to be well-positioned 10 km from the finish. I was totally nervous before the Tour and wasted a lot of energy."

Having learned from that experience, Girmay now has high ambitions with his Intermarche-Wanty team.

"I will be more relaxed," he said, despite the added pressure of having already won on a grand tour.

"The target is just to win a stage - me or my team have never won a stage on the Tour.

"Becoming the first Black African to win on a grand tour changed things, and sometimes it puts pressure on me. I think second is not enough anymore."

Girmay will then focus on the Paris 2024 Olympics, where he will wrap up the "biggest month of (his) career" with the road race on August 3rd.

The Tour de France starts in Florence on Saturday.

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