Eritrean star Biniam Girmay has withdrawn from the UCI Cycling World Championships citing injury, hours after it was reported he and three team-mates had been denied visas to enter the UK.
The 23-year-old Girmay, who last year made history by becoming the first black African to win a Grand Tour stage at the Giro d’Italia, was seen as a candidate to become Africa’s first world champion in Sunday’s men’s road race on a Classics-style course which could play to his strengths.
But his team Intermarche Circus Wanty issued a statement on Wednesday morning which said Girmay would not be able to race following a crash at the Clasica San Sebastian last weekend.
Girmay said: “I’m of course very disappointed to withdraw from the selection for the World Championships, which were a main goal for this season since last winter.
“I had a good feeling after the Tour de France, but my crash in the Clasica San Sebastian caused too severe pain to be able to defend my chances in the worlds.
“My priority is now to recover from this crash and then the preparation for the last part of the season, with nice goals in one-day races such as the Grand Prix de Plouay and Canadian classics.”
The statement came soon after it was reported by the GCN Network that Girmay and team-mates Natnael Tesfatsion, Merhawi Kudus, and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier had all been denied visas to enter the UK.
Kudus retweeted the GCN link to the story, writing “Sad!!” and tagging world governing body the UCI and the local organisers of the championships.
All four riders mentioned in the report compete at the WorldTour level, with Kudus riding for EF Education-EasyPost, and Tesfatsion and Ghebreigzabhier both with Lidl-Trek.
The UCI has been contacted for comment.