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Team doctors confirmed Wednesday that Girmay suffered a hemorrhage after a cork struck his left eye in a post-stage celebration just moments after his history-making stage victory at the Giro on Tuesday
Officials confirmed the Eritrean sprinter will not start Wednesday’s 11th stage in a precautionary move.
“Following an incident on the podium, medical examinations revealed a hemorrhage in the anterior chamber of the left eye of Biniam Girmay,” said team doctor Piet Daneels. “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,” he said. “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 11th stage.”
The setback comes as a blow for Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, which is flying high so far in the 2022 Giro. The team vows to press on.
“This Wednesday we will start with one asset less, but our determination remains unchanged,” said sport director Valerio Piva. “It is of course a pity to loose an element like Biniam, but the advice of the medical team is clear and the health of Biniam is our priority.”
The 21-year-old WorldTour rookie made history by becoming the first Black African rider to win a grand tour stage by beating back superstar Mathieu van der Poel in wild and thrilling stage finale Tuesday.
Girmay struggled to open a bottle of celebratory prosecco, and the cork struck his left eye on the winner’s podium. He was taken to an Italian hospital and returned hours later with his left eye bandaged.
Girmay said in a social media message that he incident did not take the glow off of historical and dramatic victory.
“I was a bit sad about what happened, but when I came back to the hotel, the team was super happy for me,” Girmay said. “Today I did not start the race because my eyes need some rest to give more power to the eye. Now I am looking forward to the next races in the season. I am OK now.”
The Belgian-registered team celebrated its biggest achievement in franchise history with its sprint victory Tuesday at the Giro, and vows to keep racing for more despite Girmay’s untimely exit.
“From the opening stage, Biniam showed that we were right to believe in our chances to win a stage,” Piva said. “It is remarkable to see how his teammates go though fire each day to obtain the best possible result and how happy everyone is to work with him.
“So his victory brought out an intense feeling of euphoria within the team. The news about the incident felt like a cold shower, but Biniam joined us and we celebrated the victory together.”
Without Girmay, the team will ride to support Pozzovivo
The stage marks a high-water mark not only for Girmay, who also won Gent-Wevelgem during the spring classics, but also for the entire squad.
The team’s won eight races so far in 2022, with Girmay taking three, and Jan Hirt and Alexander Kristoff with two each, and Gerben Thijssen winning one.
Without Girmay in this Giro, Piva said the team will turn to defending its GC position with stage-hunter Rein Taaramäe and surprise veteran Domenico Pozzovivo, who helped leadout Girmay to victory Tuesday.
“I stay optimistic because the whole team is making an excellent impression since the start of the race. In each of the next stages, we’ll try to seize opportunities,” Piva said.
“We’ll also continue to focus on the general classification of Domenico Pozzovivo,” he said. “With his current form and his experience, his chances to finish among the ten best riders are realistic. With Jan Hirt we even have a second rider in the top 15 of the provisional classification and in the past we have seen that his best performances occur in the third week.”