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Eritrea’s Biniam Girmay becomes the first Black rider to win a Tour de France stage

TURIN, Italy (AP) — Eritrea’s Biniam Girmay became the first Black rider to win a Tour de France stage on Monday.

Girmay said his sprint win in the mostly flat third leg was “for all Africans.”

“We must be proud now. We are really part of the big races,” he said. “Now it’s our moment. It’s our time.”

Before the podium celebration, Girmay went over and greeted Eritrean fans waving their country’s green, red and blue flag.

“There is a whole continent that has been waiting for this,” said Aike Visbeek, the performance director for Girmay’s Intermarche-Wanty team. “It’s been done now, and I hope it will open the floodgates for more riders from Africa. He’s an ambassador in every way.”

Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish’s pursuit of a record-breaking 35th stage win was postponed by a crash ahead of him in the finale, and Olympic champion Richard Carapaz took the yellow jersey from Tadej Pogacar, making him the first Ecuadorean to lead cycling’s biggest race.

Girmay also made history in Italy two years ago when he won a stage at the Giro d’Italia to become the first Black African to take a victory in a Grand Tour. But Girmay’s Giro victory was marred when he was rushed to a hospital after getting h it in the left eye by a prosecco cork he popped open during the podium celebration — forcing him to abandon the race.

Also in 2022, Girmay became the first rider from a sub-Saharan country to win a single-day classic at the Gent-Wevelgem race.

Riders from only one other African country — South Africa — have won Tour stages: Robert Hunter (2007) and Daryl Impey (2019). Four-time Tour champion Chris Froome was born and raised in Kenya but represented Britain.

The 231-kilometer (144-mile) leg from Piacenza to Turin — the longest stage of this Tour — provided the first chance for a mass sprint. There will be at least a handful of other opportunities for sprinters as the race prepares to cross back into France following the first four stages in Italy.

With time to start raising his arms before he crossed the line, Girmay finished just ahead of Fernando Gaviria and Arnaud De Lie.

Cavendish has been tied with Eddy Merckx on 34 wins for three years and put off retirement to try again this year to break the record.

Members of the Israel-Premier Tech team fell ahead of Cavendish, who crossed 113th but was given the same finishing time as Girmay as per rules that neutralize the times in case of crashes in the final five kilometers.

“I was just looking to stay up. I’m too little to see what’s going on but I could hear it,” Cavendish said. “Someone skidded and I was just waiting for someone to hit from behind. Luckily they didn’t and we kind of got through, but we were way off it and with 2.5K to go we were out of it. I don’t think anybody was seriously hurt and that’s the main thing.”

Cavendish complimented Girmay, who won a reduced sprint.

“That’s just massive. Cycling is massive in Eritrea. It’s super good for him and for African cycling,” Cavendish said. “He’s a legend, isn’t he?”

Pogacar dropped to second overall, with the same time as Carapaz.

Remco Evenepoel — the 2022 world champion and Spanish Vuelta winner — is third overall; and two-time defending champion Jonas Vingegaard is fourth, both also with the same time as Carapaz.

Danish rider Casper Pedersen had to abandon the race after falling with 15 kilometers to go and breaking his collarbone.

The race crosses back into France on Tuesday during Stage 4, the first big mountain leg going up to Sestriere and over the Col du Galibier — one of the Tour’s classic climbs — in the 140-kilometer (87-mile) route from Pinerolo to Valloire.

Pogacar, who won the Tour in 2020 and 2021, and Vingegaard will be favored to take the yellow jersey from Carapaz, who won the Giro in 2019 before taking gold in Tokyo three years ago.

“Tomorrow will be a big day,” Carapaz said. “It will be complicated. I’m going to try and give everything. I’m going to try and enjoy every single moment in the yellow jersey.”


AP cycling: https://ift.tt/7Mdirue

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