Biniam Girmay became the first black African to win a stage of a Grand Tour with victory in the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday but his race could now be over after an accident during his podium celebration.
Girmay, 22, had already made history this season with his victory at Gent-Wevelgem in March making him the first African to win a Belgian cobbled classic, and out-sprinted Mathieu van der Poel on stage 10 of the Giro in Jesi to add another landmark moment for the sport.
But his celebrations were cut short when he was hit in the eye by the cork from a Prosecco bottle on the post-race podium.
Girmay missed the usual post-stage press conference to go to hospital, and was later pictured with a bandage over his eye, putting his chances of starting Wednesday’s stage 11 to Reggio Emilia in serious doubt.
It was a cruel finish to an historic day.
A lumpy end to the 196km stage from Pescara had left the peloton in pieces with Girmay and van der Poel the only real sprinters left in a much-reduced front group. After Girmay launched his move, Van der Poel gave up in his bid to come around the Eritrean and offered a salute as he crossed the line.
Speaking before his accident on the podium, Girmay said: “It’s unbelievable. I thank the team. We started the race well, we controlled it. I don’t have any words for my team.”
His interview was interrupted several times by well-wishers from the peloton, but Girmay returned to add: “When I started the Giro we had the possibility to win and make good results – this is also part of the success of our team, my family and everybody.
“Every day comes new history so I’m really grateful and happy that I did it.”
Van der Poel had almost managed to get alongside Girmay in the finale, but once his own face was in the wind he perhaps paid for some of the attacks he had made inside the last 10km as he could not get his wheel in front.
Twenty-eight riders made it to the line in the front group, including all of the main general classification hopefuls after Richard Carapaz, Simon Yates and Hugh Carthy had all tried late attacks.
— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 17, 2022
Juan Pedro Lopez retained the leader’s pink jersey, 12 seconds ahead of Joao Almeida, with Romain Bardet, Carapaz, Jai Hindley, Guillaume Martin and Mikel Landa all within 30 seconds of the lead.
Giro organisers used the stage to pay tribute to the late Michele Scarponi, the former Astana rider who was killed while out training in 2017, as it passed through his hometown of Filottrano.
The town hosted an intermediate sprint which was won by Mattia Bais from Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli, one of Scarponi’s former teams.