Giro d’Italia cyclist retires after wine cork is hit in the eye

JESI, Italy – An Eritrean cyclist celebrating a win in the Giro d’Italia cycling race was hit by a cork popping out of a bottle of Italian sparkling wine and was forced to withdraw from the race on Wednesday.

Biniam Girmay just became the first black African to win a stage in a Grand Tour when he won the sprint to the line in the Italian town of Jesi on Tuesday, stage 10 of the 2,162-mile Giro competition. But he was taken to hospital after being hit in the left eye by a Prosecco cork he opened during the podium celebration.

Medical tests revealed a hemorrhage in his eye and the team doctor said it was “strongly recommended” to avoid physical activity.

“The news of the incident felt like a cold shower,” said Valerio Piva, Girmay team director. “Obviously it’s a shame to lose an element like Biniam, but the advice from the medical team is clear and Biniam’s health is our priority.”

22-year-old Girmay was still celebrating his victory over Mathieu van der Poel – one of the top drivers in the sport – with his teammates Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux when he returned from the hospital.

Eritrea's Biniam Girmay celebrates as he crosses the finish line of Stage 10 of the Giro D'Italia cycling race from Pescara to Jesi, Italy.
Eritrea’s Biniam Girmay celebrates as he crosses the finish line of Stage 10 of the Giro D’Italia cycling race from Pescara to Jesi, Italy.

“When I arrived after the hospital, the bad moment, I enjoy a bit with my teammates, the staff, everyone,” Girmay said in a video on his team’s social media channel.

“I’m happy now too. I was a bit sad about what happened to the champagne but when I come back to the hotel they were super happy too,” he said.

“They were a little scared but when I looked good we really enjoyed it. But luckily I didn’t run today because my eyes are still there, I need some rest to give my eyes more strength… I’m fine now, see you soon.”

In March, Girmay became the first rider from a sub-Saharan country to win a one-day classic at the Gent-Wevelgem race.

Girmay almost won the opening stage of the Giro that year, for which he also wore the famous pink jersey of the overall leader. But he was edged out by Van der Poel in a chaotic bunch sprint in Hungary.

“From the opening stages, Biniam Girmay showed that we were right to believe in our chances of winning a stage,” said team director Piva. “It is remarkable to see how his teammates go through fire every day to achieve the best possible result and how happy everyone is to work with him.” Giro d’Italia cyclist retires after wine cork is hit in the eye


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