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An iced cappuccino with Biniam Girmay

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PHOTO LUCA BETTINI, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVES

Biniam Girmay won the 10e stage of the Giro.

For his very first visit to North America, Biniam Girmay was not disoriented by the course offered to him by the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, where he finished third on Friday.

Circuit racing is what he always knew during his youth in Eritrea. During his childhood, his father took him to see the criteriums which took place a kilometer from the family residence in Asmara, the capital.

If he preferred to play soccer, he was a fan of cycling like all his friends and compatriots, a legacy of the Italian colonizers between 1885 and 1941.

At 11, he followed in his big brother’s footsteps and started racing on two wheels. His first frame?

“A Trek, an American bike,” smiled Girmay over an iced cappuccino Saturday night at his downtown Montreal hotel.


PHOTO MAXIME SEGERS, PROVIDED BY INTERMARCHÉ-WANTY-GOBERT

Biniam Girmay signs autographs.

Outside, in front of the garage, supporters, young and old, waited for the runners for cans, photos and autographs. Girmay was happy to respond to requests, a little surprised at the enthusiasm for cycling on this side of the Atlantic.

You come and they call your name. There is a lot of support here, even for my nation. I’m very happy to ride a bike, that’s why I love my job. You meet people and you make friends. It is special.

Biniam Girmay

The representative of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, a Belgian formation which is also making its first appearance in America, keeps his eyes wide open during his first stay in Canada.

“I visited several countries, in Africa and in Europe. But I’ve never been to the Americas, except for the Youth Olympics in Argentina in 2018. It’s not just about running. This is also to see the differences. I thought it only spoke English in Canada. I see that you also speak French. It’s fantastic to see the differences there can be on a continent. »

A little surprised by the slope of the Quebec course when he discovered it in training, this natural competitor finally felt perfectly at ease during the event, where his teammates constantly kept him at the forefront. .

In the sprint for second place behind Benoît Cosnefroy, only the Australian Michael Matthews, double defending champion, beat him. Girmay beat none other than Wout van Aert, the big favourite.


PHOTO JACQUES BOISSINOT, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Benoît Cosnefroy (center) won the race in Quebec on Friday, ahead of Michael Matthews (left) and Biniam Girmay.

“I grew up doing only circuit racing. With climbs of 500 or 600 meters, exactly like in Quebec. So the circuit will not be a problem [dimanche à Montréal], but the coast is quite hard. It’s more of a wear and tear test with over 4500 meters of elevation gain. It’s a good preparation for the Worlds, but I also want to do well at this race. »

“If you look at the start list, there are some pretty special climbers. Let’s hope it doesn’t go too fast, that I will have good legs and that I can try to get on the podium again. »

Racer mentality

At 17, Girmay left his country to settle at the World Cycling Center in Aigle, Switzerland. He developed there for two years under the tutelage of Canadian Richard Wooles, “a fantastic guy” who is now national team track coach.

Jean-Jacques Henry, his other coach French, had told The Press how the young man learned quickly and distinguished himself in the race thanks to a singular instinct.

I have a runner mentality. When I start, I don’t want to lose. I work hard for it, but I keep my cool and I don’t feel the stress. I love the battle for positioning, chasing to get back in front. I almost feel free when I’m racing.

Biniam Girmay

Hired by Intermarché last year, Girmay was quick to reward them, multiplying the good results in second level events. He confirmed his enormous talent by winning the U23 silver medal at the World Championships in Belgium.

But the 22-year-old puncher truly revealed himself this year by winning Ghent-Wevelgem, a WorldTour classic, and a stage of the Giro, two firsts for a black national from sub-Saharan Africa.

In Italy, he made more headlines for splashing the cork in the eye of the giant bottle of prosecco he was opening on the podium. Taken to the hospital, he had to abandon the race. He says he is fully recovered, but the injury still kept him off the bike for a month.


PHOTO LUCA BETTINI, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVES

Biniam Girmay, while winning a Giro event

After each of these historic victories, he was greeted as a hero on his return to Asmara.

“They are really crazy about bikes! They could be 1000 clustered around a TV to follow my races. When I won in Italy, some were almost crying. If I win, they’re even happier than me. It’s very special. »

follow his trail

He’s used to often being the only black rider in the pro peloton, a situation he learned to deal with from his junior days.

“For me, it doesn’t make a difference. I’ve never had any problems with a runner and I’m very happy with that. I can see that I’m the only black person on the bus or at the team presentation here. It doesn’t bother me, even that it’s something special. »

Girmay hopes to inspire other Africans to follow in her footsteps.

There weren’t a lot of black riders at the WorldTour level, especially in the classics. Now we are here, we have won a classic, a stage of a grand tour. So it’s a big step for Africa, absolutely. I’m sure it will inspire more black cyclists to reach the WorldTour.

Biniam Girmay

His dream ? Win more classics, like Milan-San Remo, where he finished 12e on its first attempt this spring, and the Tour of Flanders. “I also like Paris-Roubaix that I did with the hopefuls. »

Dividing his time between San Marino and Belgium during the season, the remoteness is what he finds most difficult, especially since becoming a father to a baby girl in April 2021.

“My team helps me a lot by arranging my program so that I can go home. We do very good planning. Eritrea is also in the same time zone as Europe, which makes my life easier. »

The interview lasted nearly half an hour. Girmay hardly touched her cappuccino, smiling from the first to the last minute.

Source: lapresse

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Cycling

“Proud not to have let go”

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PHOTO JACQUES BOISSINOT, CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES

Israel-Premier Tech announced earlier this week a one-year contract extension for Guillaume Boivin.

The season was not easy for Guillaume Boivin, to say the least. Back pain, severe flu, COVID-19 after a calamitous Tour de France, mechanical trouble at the end of the Grand Prix de Québec… Not to mention his three bikes lost for months by Air Canada.

Nothing reassuring for a 33-year-old cyclist whose contract expired at the end of the year. However, earlier this week, Israel-Premier Tech announced a one-year extension for the veteran veteran.

Excellent news for the principal concerned… for whom it was not news. Boivin accepted this new contract in January in the wake of his first Tour de France, his Olympic baptism, his third national title and his spectacular performance on the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix (9e).

For some reason, the team only announced the signing on Monday, along with that of three teammates.

I really had a great season last year and I always wanted to stay with this team.

Guillaume Boivin

“They want to keep me and they know I don’t need to be in year [de renouvellement] contract to be motivated and do my job 100%, he explained at the start of the week. It made sense to both parties. They just wanted to take that stress away from me so that I could have my head free and be more focused on the races. »

Disappointment and bad luck

After a back injury which caused him to retire from Paris-Nice, he found his legs again in the Tour of Catalonia where he distinguished himself with a fourth stage place in a sprint finish. Sent to Belgium earlier than expected to take advantage of his momentum, he was struck down by influenza for several weeks. He forced the note to return to Paris-Roubaix, after which he went back to bed for another ten days.

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As he began an altitude camp for the Critérium du Dauphiné, the team eventually sent him back to Belgium as a threat of relegation to the second division began to dawn.

“As a team, we made the choice to skip a few training sessions to go shopping, which probably didn’t pay off, at least not for me. »

Much to his disappointment, he was not part of the initial selection for the Tour. He therefore headed for Alberta where he finished second behind Pier-André Côté in the defense of his national title.

A few days later, he landed in Denmark the day before the big start of the Tour, replacing a teammate dismissed as a contact case of COVID-19.

With 4 kg more than the previous year, his Tour was a nightmare. For good measure, he was taken out of the race on the morning of the final stage due to a coronavirus infection, which was taking its toll on the peloton.

Best Canadian at the Quebec and Montreal Grands Prix, he feels that his form is on the rise, as evidenced by his fifth place at the classic Primus, in Belgium, on September 17.

“As we see every year that passes, if you’re not 100%, even in a small race, it’s difficult to win because everyone is really in good shape. »

With the health problems I had, I’m still not having a bad season. But it was still far from expectations after that of last year. I remain proud of not having let go of the piece.

Guillaume Boivin

After two weeks of training in Andorra, where he happily reunited with his partner Michael Woods, he is “greatly motivated” for the last four events on his programme: Famenne Ardenne Classic (Sunday), which he won in 2018, Binche-Chimay-Binche (Tuesday), Remco Evenepoel’s first race in his rainbow jersey, Paris-Bourges (Thursday) and Paris-Tours (next Sunday).

“At this time, it’s more the mind that breaks. I tell myself that as long as I’m running, I’m going to try to do it well. »

“We can cry…”

The other dark cloud that has weighed down the season for Boivin and his teammates is of course the threat of relegation to the second division for the next three years. In all likelihood, Israel-Premier Tech will have to settle for guaranteed spots in next year’s WorldTour one-day events. The Israeli-Canadian team will then have to finish among the first two ProTeams to win a guaranteed invitation to the three major tours in 2024. “We have been greatly affected by the disease, recalled Boivin. It was also new to fight for points rather than wins. It may be subtle, but for a runner, it changes the way of approaching the races and of behaving as a team. You need to learn. With Quebec sponsors like Sylvan Adams and Premier Tech, he adds that it’s not hard to get motivated. “You have to see it as a big challenge. We don’t really have any other option. We can cry all we want, that’s not going to solve our situation…”

2026: “A goal for our generation”

Boivin does not know when he will end his career, but the holding of the 2026 World Championships in Montreal represents a serious incentive to continue it for four more years. “It’s really amazing and I’m very excited about it. It is a fine goal for our generation to try to achieve it. The young people are growing, but if we go there, I’ll be very happy. »

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Inauguration of the velodrome: “We have accomplished a mind-blowing project”

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PHOTO JIMMY PLANTE, THE VOICE OF THE EAST

We officially inaugurated the new indoor velodrome on Thursday in Bromont.

It’s official. After 30 years of waiting and nearly a decade of mobilization, Quebec once again has its indoor velodrome, making Bromont the Mecca of cycling sports. The sprint to complete this extraordinary project required colossal efforts, which were celebrated in style at the inauguration on Thursday.

When he looks behind his shoulder, Nicolas Legault takes the measure of the titanic challenge taken up to complete the velodrome project, an investment of $22 million.

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Nicolas Legault dreams of world-class competitions

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PHOTO JIMMY PLANTE, THE VOICE OF THE EAST

“We have everything we need to host important events,” says Nicolas Legault.

Nicolas Legault makes no secret of it: he wants the Sylvan-Adams velodrome to be the scene of major cycling competitions.

“We have what it takes to host major events,” said the general manager of the velodrome. Do we have plans? Yes ! »

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