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NAPOLI, Italy (VN) – Biniam Girmay may be a grand tour rookie, but he’s sure not racing like one.
The Eritrean ace lit up the all-attacking final of stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia, matching Mathieu van der Poel blow-by-blow as they battered away in the day’s break.
Fifth place wasn’t the result the Intermarché-Wanty speedster wanted from a day on the offense, but hey, that’s cycling.
“That’s the race,” Girmay said at the finishline. “I try my best every day, but it’s cycling, sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t.”
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Five top-5 finishes in the Giro’s first eight stages sees Girmay pick up where he left off in a breakout classics campaign that exceeded all expectations and landed him a historic victory at Gent-Wevelegem.
Girmay hit the ground running in his grand tour debut in Budapest when he finished second behind Van der Poel in the uphill-tilting sprint. And so it felt all the more fitting that the two classics and Grande Partenza stars made the marquee names in the extra-strong break that shaped Saturday’s circuit race through the streets of Napoli.
Van der Poel and Girmay played protagonists with a battery of attacks that stretched the group to the limit.
“Everyone was looking at Mathieu and even me, it was impossible to make the race ourselves, but things happen,” Girmay told reporters. “Today I’m really happy with my performance.”
After missing the winning move, Van der Poel and Girmay didn’t let off the gas with a two-up chase that came within seconds of upturning Thomas De Gendt’s scintillating breakaway win.
“I tried to go with Van der Poel and gave everything, but we could not reach them,” Girmay said.
— Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert (@IntermarcheWG) May 14, 2022
Girmay has hit unchartered waters in day eight of this Giro. Until this month, his longest pro race stretched just seven days.
“Today was unbelievable, from the start to the finish, all day in the front, full gas, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “In a grand tour like this, it’s crazy that yesterday was a hard day and today was harder. I’m happy with what I did.”
Girmay’s not limiting his ambitions in his first grand tour.
Intermarché’s sprinting star clawed back a handful more points on Arnaud Démare in the maglia ciclamino competition on Saturday to sit within striking range of his first grand tour leader’s jersey.
A slew of transitional and sprint stages in the race’s second week will give Girmay the opportunity to pull back more.
“It’s important I gained some points,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunities in the next days but still there’s a lot more to come, we’ll see.”
Whether Girmay can stay in contention for the maglia may come down to whether he survives his first experience of a mountain-laden final to a grand tour. So far he’s proving pretty good at exceeding expectations.