BY SIRAK HABTEMICHAEL | SHABAIT
Cycling in Eritrea is definitely a national sport and almost every Eritrean grows up riding a bicycle; riding a bicycle to school, work and so on. For several years now, Eritrean cyclists have been racing in top-flight European tours, after years of training in the thin air and on the steep mountains around the capital Asmara.
Besides, Eritrean riders have time and again proved that they dominate African cycling, and have been seen in various world tours, including the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Spagna.
Starting from March 14 to the 19th, the city of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, hosted the 14th African Continental Championship, in which a handful of African national teams took part. The competition officially opened on Thursday with the junior men and women time trials, where Ethiopia won the Gold and the junior national Eritrean cycling team settled for the silver.
During the men’s and women’s elite team time trials, however, Eritrea managed to get its first gold medal of the competition through the men elite and silver through the women. Now that the fans and members of the national team know that team Eritrea doesn’t settle for the second place when it comes to cycling, the situation started to get better for the team every day. According to reports, the National Cycling Teams of Rwanda and Ethiopia won second and third places respectively.
Eritrea became the winner of the team time trial (TTT) Gold Medal in the African Cycling Championship for the 9th consecutive time. At the competition that covered 46.6 km, the Eritrean National Team was represented by Sirak Tesfom, Meron Teshome, Mekseb Debesai, and Yakob Debesai and they finished the competition in 1 hour and 42 seconds.
On the second day of the competition, Eritrea won a gold medal in the mixed relay elite race. The mixed relay race is first of its kind introduced by the UCI at this African Continental Championship special. Each national team is required to be represented by three men and three women cyclists.
Eritrea was represented by Daniel Teklehaimanot, Yakob Debesai and Meron Teshome from the men group and Mosana Debesai, Desiet Kidane and Zinab Fitsum from the females’ group. In this category, the Eritrean national team undisputedly put a second gold to the Eritrean tally of medals.
As the race continued, Eritrea’s Elite Women’s Team, as well as Junior Men & Women’s teams won three silver medals in their respective road races.
All eyes were on the Sunday morning’s Individual Time Trials (ITT), especially from the Eritrean side, because Eritrean riders have been competing to take the title from each other and have dominated the ITT in the African ContinentalRoad Championship. Although a very good ride by young rider Sirak Tesfom, who has broken the time trial record in Eritrea, he only managed to win the silver as the gold was claimed by a South African rider.
Yet another day of the competition was held on Monday which saw to the junior men and women road race. The race was one of the toughest as it covered 89.6 kilometers for the junior riders. By the end of the competition, Rwanda’s Biyiza Uhurue took the gold followed by Eritrea’s Yuel Asmerom and Gebrehiwot Yohannes, while Danait Tsegay from the junior women brought another gold medal to the list of Eritrea’s medals.
Similarly, Desiet Kidane of Eritrea won the gold medal for the U-23 women road championship. Two more gold medals to Eritrea; with another two medals in the tally remaining.
The final race was the men’s elite and U-23 road race in which Mekseb Debesay won the gold medal for the elite men winning a fierce sprint against Algeria’s Azzadin Laggab, and young rider Henok Mulubrhan coming fifth on the overall won gold for the U-23 category.
Once again, Eritrea dominated the African Continental Road Championship by winning a total of 18 medals including 7 Gold, 7 Silver, and 4 Bronze medals.
Congratulations team Eritrea and the fans.