Eritrean cyclist Biniam Girmay became the first Black man from Africa to win a stage of the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday. Wednesday, he was forced to withdraw from the race because of a freak injury he sustained while celebrating that victory.
Girmay, 22, was injured when a cork from one of the prosecco bottles he was celebrating with flew into his eye. After winning the 10th stage on Tuesday, he wasn’t able to start the 11th on Wednesday. The cork shot into Girmay’s eye after he initially struggled to get it off the top of the bottle. He didn’t participate in any post-race interviews in lieu of a trip to the hospital because of his eye.
“Following an incident on the podium, medical examinations revealed a hemorrhage in the anterior chamber of the left eye of Biniam Girmay,” a statement from the team doctor said. “His injury is evolving in the right direction and will be followed up by a medical team in the next days.”
“In order to minimize the risk of expansion of the hemorrhage and the intraocular pressure, it is strongly recommended to avoid physical activity. Our priority is a complete healing of the injury and that’s why we decided together with the rider and the sports direction that Biniam will not appear at the start of the 11th stage.”
In a tweet Wednesday morning, Girmay said that he was fine and wanted to thank everyone for the messages he had received while noting that he needed a few days of rest and recovery.
ሰላም በሉለይ ደሓን እየ ስለቲ መልእኽትን ደገፍን ንዅሎም ከመስግኖም እደሊ እየ። ነቲ ዝተረፈ ኽፋል እታ ጀሮ ስለ ዝናፍቖ የጕህየኒ እዩ። እንተዀነ ግን ደው ክብልን ክሓውን ንእተወሰነ መዓልትታት ከዕርፍን ኣሎኒ ። ኣብ ቀረባ እዋን ንራኸብ pic.twitter.com/hKIbLdyImn
— Biniam Girmay (@GrmayeBiniam) May 18, 2022
His team at Intermache-Wanty-Gobert also posted a video message from him.
Girmay won the sprint stage despite a moment where he accidentally went the wrong way. He outraced Matthew van der Poel to the finish line. Coincidentally, van der Poel was struck in the face by a rocketing prosecco cork while celebrating a Giro d’Italia stage win in 2021. He was uninjured, however, when the cork struck his face a year ago.
Girmay is in his first season on cycling’s Grand Tour and has three of his team’s eight victories so far this season. The Giro d’Italia is one of the bigger events on the European cycling calendar and concludes May 29.