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Biniam Girmay back in the fast lane for first time since freak eye injury

Eritrean sprinter rejoins his Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert teammates at the Tour de Wallonie in Belgium, running Saturday to Wednesday.

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Biniam Girmay clicks back into European racing action this weekend for the first time since leaving the Giro d’Italia with a freak eye injury.

The Eritrean sprinter injured his left eye when a Prosecco cork exploded into his face, forcing him to leave the Giro a day after winning his first grand tour stage.

Girmay rejoins his Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert teammates at the Tour de Wallonie in Belgium, running Saturday to Wednesday.

“I’m looking forward to return into competition,” Girmay said. “We’ll see how I feel on those mythical climbs. I think that there will be some sprint opportunities, because I know that several strong sprinters will be at the start.”

Also read: How a super Intermarché set up Girmay for history

Girmay is also expected to race the Tour de Pologne, the Bretagne Classic and the Canadian World Cup races before a likely run at the world title in Australia.

“I’m reunited with the team for the first time since my stage victory in the Giro and I’m expecting my third block of competition to start at high intensity,” Girmay said. “I remember the steep slopes of the Mur de Huy from my participation of the Flèche Wallonne last year.

“It was special to climb the Col de La Redoute, with all those names of champions paint on the road,” he said. “I tried to imagine the duel between Michèle Bartoli et Franck Vandenbroucke in the edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège 1999. When I’m in Europe, I regularly watch archives of important classics. It is interesting to discover the roads and also to learn more about cycling history.”

The 2019 winner Loïc Vliegen also lines up for the five stages of the 43rd edition, with each of the five Walloon provinces being crossed with hilly parcours and each day a local lap to conclude the stage.

Team trainer Ioannis Tamouridis said Girmay trained at home, where he won the Eritrean time trial title in June.

“He lives at an altitude of 2400 meters, which is a big advantage for him when he’s racing in Europe. He can climb up to 3500 meters of altitude or go down to sea level to train behind the scooter,” he said. “This requires a careful follow-up, because the more you gain altitude, the more it is difficult to continue pedaling at a high power and also the recovery takes more time.

“We pay a lot of attention to the adaptation of his targeted power zones to his training conditions. It takes experience to handle this and a close collaboration between the rider and the trainer is very important.

“Biniam and I communicate well about the training instructions and the feedback, we regularly call each other. After each training block of two to three days, he goes to an internet café to send us his training files. In addition to our usual way of working with TrainingPeaks, I send him Excel files and screenshots of his daily missions to be sure that he has access to all necessary information. It is a privilege for all coaches to work with a talent such as Biniam.”