Biniam Girmay was forced to pump the brakes instead of accelerating at the end of stage 2 of the Tour Down Under following an incident involving Julian Alaphilippe.
The Eritrean sprinter and Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick-Step) were highly fancied for the short but undulating stage from Norwood to Lobethal before Mexican neo-pro Isaac Del Toro (UAE Emirates) formally introduced himself to the WorldTour peloton.
“I’m disappointed because I tried to survive all the way to the finish line,” Girmay said post-race. “And then unfortunately in the last 500m I hit Alaphilippe, I think his foot, and then my wheel was not straight anymore, so I lost a lot of speed because of that and then I couldn’t do my sprint. But to be honest, today UAE was the strongest I think.”
Up until that point, the Intermarché-Wanty rider had followed at his own pace on the final ascent of the Fox Creek climb, which took the sting out of some sprinters, including overnight race leader Sam Welsford (Bora-Hansgrohe).
“I just did my own pace because I didn’t want to expose myself,” Girmay said.
“And then I’m looking at my computer and see the forecast on my watts, but I survived in a good way. From then on, the race was full gas, we didn’t have enough guys to control…”
Girmay held on for fourth behind Israel-Premier Tech pair Corbin Strong and Stephen Wells. It was his second consecutive day in the mix, following a third-place finish to Welsford and Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) on stage one. The 23-year-old now leads the points classification and speaking to press on Wednesday took confidence from the new royal blue hue he’ll wear going into stage three.
“We reconned for that and I think tomorrow is an easier race,” he said, open about his intent not to leave Australia empty-handed. “We have still a lot of opportunities. Normally, I always like to wear the points jersey, this is what I work for, so I’m happy today to wear this jersey.”
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