The pandemic took a heavy toll on all aspects of life, with competitive sport no exception. But with many nations now lifting the public health restrictions that have dominated daily affairs for the past two years, sporting enthusiasts can once again savour the spectacle of many events that had been put on hold.
For cycling fans, spring brings the excitement of the Cobbled Classics – an electrifying series of races taking place in the homeland of cycling. A far cry from the smooth asphalt of the Alps or other iconic races, these have a distinctly Belgian flavour that has cracked even the best in the sport.
Fearsome and thrilling in equal measure, the races never fail to please crowds. But as the series gets underway, yesterday produced something truly special as Biniam Girmay – a 21-year-old Eritrean – became the first man of colour to ever win one of the races.
It was a momentous win, with Girmay coming out ahead of some of the most skilled riders in the professional peloton (including pre-race favourite and Belgian champion Wout Van Aert). But besides the physical achievement, his victory is a major milestone in a sport that is overwhelmingly white.
As a mode of transport, bicycles are transformative – particularly in poorer countries where cars or public transport are lacking. But at the professional level, hardly any riders of colour make it onto the World Tour (international) teams. Let alone win one of the sport’s toughest and most-watched contests.
Girmay will rightly go down in history and become a figurehead for diversity in the sport. For that, we are all winners.
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