Date: Wednesday, 02 August 2023
GCN understands four out of Eritrea’s seven riders have currently been denied entry to the UK
*Written by Patrick Fletcher
Biniam Girmay won the silver medal in the 2021 Men’s U23 World Championship Road Race. Photo: © Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images
The elite men’s road race at the UCI World Championships could take place without one of the top contenders for the rainbow jersey, with Biniam Girmay and four of his fellow Eritreans denied visas to the UK.
GCN understands that more than half the Eritrean squad are currently in limbo, anxiously re-applying for entry with just four full days until the road race in Scotland on Sunday.
At present, three riders have been granted visas for the Worlds: Natnael Berhane, Henok Mulubrahn, and Dawit Yemane. Four riders, as it stands, are unable to travel: Girmay, Natnael Tesfatsion, Merhawi Kudus, and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier.
It is unclear at this stage on which grounds the visa applications were denied. One of those who have been accepted submitted their application last Monday and had it approved on Friday.
There is still hope for riding Worlds, with a scramble to complete repeat applications, but time is tight and the logistics are tricky. Kudus is currently racing the Tour de l’Ain, which finishes on Wednesday, but needs to return to Andorra, where he resides, in order to submit his application.
Girmay lives in San Marino, a state within Italy, along with Tesfatsion and Ghebreigzabhier, who is also at the Tour de l’Ain. Most members of the squad were planning to travel to the UK on Friday.
The Intermarché-Circus-Wanty rider enjoys the support of Eritrean fans across the globe. Photo: © Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images
With a Classics-flavoured parcours on offer in Glasgow on Sunday, Girmay is among the contenders for the road race rainbow jersey, which would be the first for an African rider. The 23-year-old has achieved a number of milestones for his continent, becoming the first African to win a cobbled Classic at Gent-Wevelgem in 2022 and soon after becoming the first Black African to win a stage of the Giro d’Italia.
He has only won twice so far this season but his vicious sprint at the end of punchy races makes him a true threat for the gold medal in Glasgow.
Visa headaches are no stranger to Girmay and his compatriots, and present one of the major hurdles to African riders turning professional in cycling’s European heartlands. Once established in a European country, things are easier, although the UK is no longer part of the EU, meaning the Schengen visas commonly used do not cover the 2023 Worlds.
This time last year, Lawson Craddock missed the World Championships in Australia after his visa was initially denied, and his re-application was only approved just after his flight had taken off.