Meron Russom will race in the Untied States of America for the first time when he starts the Tour of Elk Grove today.
Russom is one of three Eritreans on Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung. His talent together with the bicycle, has given him the opportunity that many others in Africa might never have – to travel the world.
“People at home are excited that we are professional cyclists in Europe and can travel and see the world,’ Russom said.“Our federation told us they’re really happy with what we have achieved because we are promoting Eritrea in Europe and America.”
Eritrean cycling is in the strongest position it has ever been. The country is cycling mad thanks to the influence the Italians had when they colonized Eritrea in 1890. Eritrea now boasts five professional cyclists with Russom, Jani Tewelde and Ferekalsi Debesay on Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung, Daniel Teklehaimanot on Orica-GreenEdge and Natnael Berhane on Europcar.
Before traveling to the States this week, the professionals could be seen training together on local roads, inspiring many aspiring local cyclists.
“Jani and I had a good time training with Daniel and Natnael. We did four hard days together. All the people are happy to see us with all our different professional teams. They’re always following us and encouraging us to give our best.”
Russom will play a support role in America in the Tours of Elk Grove and Utah in helping sprinter Kristian Sbaragli and climbers Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Louis Meintjes and Tsgabu Grmay. His strength lies in finding breakaways and the ability to ride on the front of the peloton for hours.
“This will be my first time in America,” he said. “I have been preparing in Eritrea for the race. I am feeling ok. It’s summer in Eritrea now so there are a lot of fit riders and I was training with them. I am feeling ok but lets see what happens because we’ll race at high altitude and there’s some climbs and humidity but I am ok and we’ll see what happens.”
Russom is a previous winner of the Tour of Eritrea and has worn the yellow jersey in La Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon.