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Biniam Girmay: Breaking Barriers as the First Black African Tour de France Champion

Biniam Girmay: Breaking Barriers as the First Black African Tour de France Champion

Biniam Girmay

As Girmay continues to break barriers and inspire a new generation of cyclists, his journey highlights the importance of representation in sports.

By Tuka Letura

Eritrean cyclist, Biniam Girmay, became the first Black African rider to win a stage at the Tour de France after finishing first in the third stage on Monday, July 1, 2024. Only two other African riders had previously won stages on the Tour de France. Both Robbie Hunter, who won Stage 11 in 2007, and Daryl Impey, who won Stage 9 in 2019, are from South Africa and are white.

The 24-year-old Girmay, riding for the Intermarché-Wanty team, seized his moment after a crash in the peloton three kilometres from the finish, in hopes of a record-breaking stage win.

Biniam Girmay
Biniam Girmay

This comes after his victories in the Surf Coast Classic in Australia, a one-day cycling race held annually since 2020, in January, and the Circuit Franco–Belge, also another one-day cycling race in May 2024. It’s three first-place finishes across the tiers by Girmay for Intermarché-Wanty this season.

In 2022, the cyclist also made history in Italy by becoming the first Black African to win a stage at the Giro d’Italia. This victory marked the first time a Black African rider had ever won a stage in a Grand Tour, a term that includes the three major three-week races: the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and the Vuelta a España.

The race spanned 230.8 km from Piacenza to Turin. Girmay surged to the front, finishing ahead of Fernando Gaviria and Arnaud De Lie, who took second and third places, respectively.

Tour de France Winners Table
Tour de France Stage 3 Winners table

His victory is not only a personal achievement but a landmark moment for African cycling. 

“Ever since I started cycling, I’ve always been dreaming of the Tour,” Girmay reflected. “But to win in my second Tour, in a big bunch sprint, is unbelievable. It means a lot, personally for me, and for the continent [of Africa]. Today, everybody will believe African riders can succeed in the World Tour. We must be proud, now we are really part of the big races. Now, it’s our moment, our time.”

His statement resonates deeply and highlights the broader significance of his success beyond himself alone. The cyclist’s triumph in Turin is more than just a victory; it’s a beacon of hope for aspiring African cyclists. It demonstrates that with hard work, talent, and the right support, African athletes can compete and win at the highest levels.

Girmay was and still is in second place for the green jersey at the Tour de France after his victory in stage 3 and at the end of place of stage 4 at the Tour de France. 

The Tour de France’s points classification, represented by the green jersey, is a prestigious competition that rewards cyclists for their consistent performance and speed across various stages of the race. Points are awarded based on finishing positions in each stage and at intermediate sprints, favouring sprinters who can maintain high placements throughout the race. The rider with the highest points total dons the green jersey.

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Stage Four General Green Jersey Table
Stage four General Green Jersey table

Currently, Girmay has amassed 83 points, trailing only Jonas Abrahamsen, who leads with 87 points. The competition for the top spot remains intense. Recalling his father’s encouragement, he shared, “I remember my father really liked to watch the Tour every July. He always showed us the Tour de France on TV. One day, I asked him if it was possible to be part of the Tour, and he said: ‘Keep going and everything is possible’”.

As Girmay continues to break barriers and inspire a new generation of cyclists, his journey highlights the importance of representation in sports. It is important to note that just like those before him, every feat heralds a new era where African athletes are recognised and celebrated on the world stage, especially in cycling.

As the Tour de France continues, all eyes will be on Girmay to see if he can build on this success in the remaining stages of the race.

Here are the start times for stages 5, 6, and 7 of the Tour de France:

  • Stage 5 (Wednesday, 3-Jul): 11:20 am BST
  • Stage 6 (Thursday, 4-Jul): 12:35 pm BST
  • Stage 7 (Friday, 5-Jul): 12:05 pm BST

Tuka Letura is an experienced sports writer with over five years of experience in the craft. He uses data and statistics to provide analysis and commentary. From regional to worldwide competitions, he has covered a wide range of sports-related events and topics. He is devoted to sharing his enthusiasm for sports with his audience and engaging them with interesting anecdotes and viewpoints.

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