By Alula Abrha,
The greedy Eritrean athletes who took part in the Tour d’Algiers have just won all, but one, medal that was on offer. But they were so generous, though, that the only medal that they had let slip through their fingers is the very one that they are famous for.
Natnael Berhane, Merhawi Kudus, Daniel Teklehaymanot, Metkel Eyob, FreQalsi Debesai, Meron Russom, Tesfom Okubamariam and many others have in the past been crowned as KoM (king of the mountains) on many occasions but yesterday the story was unusual. Mekseb Debesay was peeped to 2nd place to the eventual winner, Mohammed Mirza of UAE. The rest of the 10 medals were all appropriated by the Eritreans riders but it beggar’s belief that, out of everything else, they let go off the medal for the Mountain’s classification.
Their winners’ medals consists of the Best team of the tour (team classification), Best intermediate sprinters (points classification), the Best youth (the youth classification) and the tour’s champion (General classification). Altogether, 10 winners’ medals for the most efficient Eritrean team of 6 athletes.
Mekseb Debesay alone got 4 winner’s medals for himself and his team (one of each in the points classification, stage win, team classification and the general classification). Two winner’s medals for Amanuel G/ezgher, in the youth classification and team classification as well as one winner’s medal each in the team classification for Elias Afewerki, Tekeste Yonas, Aron Debretsion and Bereket Yemane.
Mekseb was followed in 2nd and 3rd place by Devid Tintori of Italy and Ronald Yeung of Hong-Kong-China, respectively.
In the meantime, Daniel has been having a tough run for his new team MTN-Qhubeka today in stage-2 of the Tirenno-Adriatico in the World Tour (WT) calendar. He was amongst the the group of 5 that broke away early in the race leading the race until 10km were left off the 166km race course yesterday. His lead had gone up to a max of 5 minutes at the 110km mark but in the face of an extremely fast moving peloton, aggressively, chasing the escapees group, Daniel and co. had no chance of sustaining the gap for longer. With only a few km left, the run-away were, inevitably, reeled back and swallowed by the peloton.
As far as Daniel’s decision to break away early seems more like a team tactic than a random decision to bolt out of the pack. Now, there remains 5 more stages to be race between now to next Tuesday and all the creams of the world’s best riders (Olympic champions, Grand world tour winners and world champions) are all taking part in it. The Terreno-Adriatico tour in Italy (AKA the “tour of the two seas“) is usually considered as a warm up race for the much anticipated grand WT of Giro d’Italy.
There is no doubt that the next 3 stages would be the most challenging of the tour, where the GC would most certainly take shape by Sunday afternoon.
Tomorrow’s stage-3 will be the easiest of the three and it would be stretching 210 km on a flat course. But the toughest of all stages will see riders tested on Saturday in the Perugia’s longest stage-4 race course that stretches for a whooping 244km, as well as having on the top of that, three killer steep climbs. This is usually Daniel’s cup of tea but he definitely needs the support of Eritreans living around there.
Eritreans residing in Italy are expected to come out with their Eritrean flags in huge numbers to give support to the Eritrean first Olympian cyclist, Daniel Teklehaymanot. If everything goes well and he comes out good in that stage on Saturday, he’ll go with confidence for the next deadly climbing stage the following day (Sunday) in Pescara. Again Eritrean living in Pescara and environs should set up a colony on the road sides, perhaps, an Eritrean colony in Italy for at least a day, for a change.
The Saturday one in Perugia involves 3 climbs, which includes a summit finish with a maximum 12% gradient. That’s where Daniel most needs the support. At 244 km, Stage-4 is nearly 50% longer than yesterday’s 166km race course of stage-2 and since it took nearly 4 hours for stage 2, then from the feel of it, the stage-4 race on Saturday is expected to take no less than a massive 6 hours before the winner crosses the finish line.
The last sector of the race-course is expected to stretch the peloton and disperse the riders all over the place. But again, stage-5 on Sunday will be even tougher, simply because the last climb, in particular, having an average of a deadly 22% gradient stretching for just under 1km and up to 30% at some points along the slope. That is more than enough to drain ones oxygen in the muscles, which is the cause of a huge lactic acid build up that athletes fear.
However, these are the sorts of climbs that European riders are notoriously known for substance abuse by illegally using performance enhancing substances(EPO) to help themselves avoid a potential build up of painful lactic acid in the muscles. The EPO is believed to circumvent exactly that by illegally boosting the supplying & transportation of oxygen in to their aching muscles.
The last stage on Tuesday stretching a little over 9km might sound easy but the fact that the riders are racing against time in ITT (individual time trial) makes it very tricky. If the mountain stages didn’t produce a bigger margin of time gap, then the last ITT stage will certainly decide the winner.
It’s remembered that the whole of the 8 riders of team MTN-Qhubeka had each lost nearly a minute and half in the TTT (team Time trial) of stage-1 on Wednesday.
But as the continent’s best Individual Time Trialist, Daniel is expected to excel in the 9km ITT on the last day next Tuesday. If MTN gets good result in this world “tour of the two seas” in Italy, their chance of entering for the grand WT (world tour) of the Giro d’Italy will get a boost.
Natnael is almost certain(but not confirmed yet) to feature in the Giro representing his Europcar team based in France.
Since Giro d’Italia has a lot of mountain stages, Eritrean athletes have a great chance with FreQalsi, Merhawi, Meron, Daniel and Jani also hoping to feature for MTN if accepted by Giro organisers. The first 3 stages of the Giro will be raced in Northern Ireland and will cross over to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland in the 3rd stage. If Eritrean athletes are confirmed for the Giro, Eritreans in UK will certainly organise and cross over to Belfast from the Liverpool docks to support our athletes and follow them right up to Dublin before they seeing them off to Italy for the rest of the gruelling 18 stages.
Following the Giro, the great Eritrean National championship and, perhaps, the postponed tour of Eritrea will coincide with it.
Tune in to TesfaNews for more up to date news on Eri-cycling progress.
In the meantime, Tour of the Tirreno-Adriatico will be broadcast LIVE in the weekend from 1:30pm on EUROSPORT-UK and highlight of the race for the previous day will be shown everyday from12:30pm(noon) just before the live race. Highlight on EUROSPORT-2 at 10:30pm in the evenings will also broadcast everyday.
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