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Giro d'Italia

Merhawi Kudus: I’m sad for Biniam Girmay but happy he made history

EF Education-EasyPost rider on the positives of compatriot Girmay’s Giro stage win rather than the disappointment of the bizarre way he departed the race.

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REGGIO EMILIA, Italy (VN) – EF Education-EasyPost climber Merhawi Kudus professed to being both happy and sad at the departure of his Eritrean compatriot and friend Biniam Girmay, who didn’t take to the start of the Giro d’Italia’s 11th stage between Santarcangelo di Romagna and Reggio Emilia.

Girmay had been forced to abandon his grand tour debut after sustaining an eye injury when the cork from a prosecco bottle exploded into his face on the podium following his victory in the previous stage.

Also read: Giro d’Italia stage 10: Biniam Girmay dashes to historic victory in wild finale

“It was sad news to hear that he wasn’t starting today, but at the same time I’m happy because at least he made history by winning that stage,” Kudus said of Girmay, whose success had been the first by an Eritrean rider at a grand tour. “I see the positive side of the events that happened rather than the negative. If it had happened before he made history it would have been worse.”

Kudus revealed that he had spoken to Girmay the evening before, both to congratulate him on his victory and check on his welfare. “I talked to him last night when he was in the hospital and he told me that he was OK, but he didn’t know whether he would continue or not at that time. It’s sad to hear that he can’t go on,” said the EF rider.

Girmay’s success was, Kudus added, the latest in a series of stepping stones that have pushed Eritrean cycling right into the sport’s spotlight. “Daniel Teklehaimanot opened the door when he became a pro in 2013, then Natnael Berhane broke through, and then it was me.

“Now Biniam’s come through and the more of us there are, the more chance there is of more talents coming through. In the future, there will be more Eritrean talents with big victories, they’re going to be dominant all over the world,” said Kudus.

“I was so happy for Bini yesterday. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time, I’ve been in the pro peloton for a long time too, and it’s good that he managed to get that first win yesterday.”

Twenty-eight-year-old Kudus, who went close to a grand tour success when he finished second on a stage in the first week of the 2017 Vuelta a España, has his own goals in the Giro, primarily protecting the GC aspirations of EF leader Hugh Carthy. “I’ll have the job of looking after Hugh, but we’re also looking to the mountain stages as an opportunity to go hunting for stage victories. It may be that I’ll get my opportunity there,” said the Eritrean.