JESI, Italy — An accident with a prosecco cork while celebrating his historic stage victory at the Giro d’Italia forced Biniam Girmay to pull out of the race.
The Eritrean rider became the first Black African to win a stage at a grand tour when he beat Mathieu van der Poel in the sprint to the line in Jesi in Stage 10. But he had to be taken to a local hospital after getting injured when he popped a prosecco cork into his left eye during the podium celebration.
Medical tests revealed a hemorrhage in his eye and the team doctor said it was “strongly recommended” he avoid physical activity.
“The news about the incident felt like a cold shower,” said Girmay’s team director, Valerio Piva. “It is of course a pity to lose an element like Biniam, but the advice of the medical team is clear and the health of Biniam is our priority.”
The 22-year-old Girmay still celebrated with his Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux teammates when he returned from the hospital.
“When I arrived after the hospital, the bad moment, I enjoy a bit with my teammates, the staff, everybody,” Girmay said in a video on his team’s social media channel. “I’m also happy now. I was a bit sad about what happened with the champagne but when I come back to the hotel they were super happy also.
“They were a bit afraid but when I looked OK we really enjoyed. But today luckily I didn’t start the race because still my eyes, I need some rest to give more power to the eye . I’m OK now, see you soon.”
In March, Girmay became the first rider from a sub-Saharan country to win a single-day classic at the Gent-Wevelgem race.
Girmay almost won the Giro’s opening stage this year, for which he would have also worn the famous pink jersey of the overall leader. But he was edged by Van der Poel – one of the top riders in the sport – in a chaotic bunch sprint in Hungary.
“From the opening stage, Biniam Girmay 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.”