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Biniam Girmay takes new approach to Classics with Tour Down Under debut

Tour de France 2023: Biniam Girmay of Intermarche- Circus- Wanty pictured at the start of stage 7Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) is swapping out the arm warmers and cold weather of a January season opener in Europe for the Australian heat on his debut at the Tour Down Under.The Eritrean will be eyeing a fourth WorldTour win ahead of his Spring Classics campaign with his combination of punch and speed making him a likely contender for the non-climbing days and the blue sprints jersey.

Girmay, 23, started his last two seasons quite successfully in Spain with wins at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Mallorca Challenge, but he said he is excited about the change of plan Down Under.

“Personally, I prefer to race in the hot weather than the cold. It's a nice race, it’s also a WorldTour race and for sure I have quite good opportunities to win stages,” Girmay said at the pre-race press conference.  

“Also, it's my first Tour Down Under so I need to change my plan for the past two years because I only started in Europe in the cold weather. I had some good results but didn’t feel very well because I could not do my best due to the weather, so we are trying to change a little bit and start here.

 

“To be honest I’m really focused on the beginning of the season. First here, then the Classics. After that, I have plan A and plan B so we will see how the shape is in the first races and after that, we will decide if we go for the Olympics and the Tour.”

Journalists were keen to learn of the African star’s home in Eritrea where he in fact lives at the sixth-highest capital city in the world by altitude, Asmara. 

“The best thing is that I live in altitude, my home town is around 2,400m where I live, but the thing is - it’s never hot like this. In the last months, I went to the sea because I need to adapt to the heat,” said Girmay. 

“I have a really good time at home for training but to be honest I don’t know what my shape is because we haven’t raced yet - we only had the crit a few days ago - I felt okay.”

Girmay was 51st in the Down Under Classic where Intermaché-Wanty teammate Madis Mihkels was the best-placed rider from the Belgian team in 18th, but he should be raring to go in the punchy finishes and flat sprints across the six stages of racing starting in Tanunda and reaching its climax up Mount Lofty.

The Eritrean has become a star of world cycling in recent years, making history with his victories at Gent-Wevelegem and the Giro d’Italia in 2022. However, a crash-marred 2023 meant he couldn't make as much progress last season, which saw his Tour de France debut, aside from a brilliant sprint win at the Tour de Suisse. 

Girmay will be joined on the startline by compatriot Natnael Tesfatsion (Lidl-Trek), who made a roaring start to his season with second in the Down Under Classic behind Jhonatan Narváez as the continent continues to produce WorldTour talents.

It was recently revealed that the 2025 UCI Road World Championships in Kigali, Rwanda - the first to be held in Africa - will be co-organised by the experienced Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O) and Golazo, and although Girmay won’t be a favourite due to the extreme climbing, he was very proud of the continent's growth in cycling.

“It's huge for sure. It will be the first time ever for a World Championships [in Africa]. I think it will be huge for me personally and for all African countries, especially for the cycling countries,” said Girmay. 

“We are really looking forward to participating, but unfortunately it's only really for the climbing guys as it’s up to 5500m elevation, so I don’t think it really for me but I will try my best to be part of that because it means a lot for us.”

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