FOR the fifth year in a row since 2010, our boys have made our nation Eritrea so proud and got it be eyed as the powerhouse of cycling in the continent ever since consistently. The young Merhawi Kudus, the prolific Daniel Teklehaimanot, the explosive Natnael Berhane and the new African cycling king, Mekseb Debesay have stormed home today to a great win and claim Gold for the Team Time Trial (TTT) for a record 5th in row.
Our Women’s team have also made us proud by getting into the podium racing against established professionals from Namibia and South Africa. Our girls have done a great job in their second appearance in the Continental Team Chronometer Championship in South Africa. In fact, they’ve done wonders in their first appearance in the same event last year in Egypt where our girls stood tall on the podium with their Gold medals and had our flag flying high and our national anthem played (በዓል ደማ እንዳልቀሰ ተደምሲሱ …).
What was unusual was that the Ethiopian girls team finished 3rd last year and were supposed to stand where our girls stood today but their weyane coach ill-advised the poor girls to boycott the award ceremony.
However, the Ethiopian men team finishing in 3rd place today were acting in a sportsmanlike manner where they stood respecting our golden men with their hands on their hearts enjoying our national anthem.
Meanwhile, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Natnael Berhane are the only surviving riders amongst our national Chrono team of quads from their first victory five years ago back in 2010 in Kigali, Rwanda. However, what makes today’s race and victory historic is the timing of the introduction of Mekseb Debesay, who is the most inform and currently top African rider according to UCI. His oldest brother, Freqalsi Debesay, whose contract with MTN-Qhubeka wasn’t renewed, was part of the Eritrean national team that had won three Gold medals in a row in the continental team Chrono championship in Rwanda (2011), followed by in Asmara (2012) and in Ougadougou (2012). Now to see his younger brother carry the torch is like an icing on the cake.
After the Continental road race championship taking place next Saturday (February 14th), Mekseb Debesay is also expected to fly to Gabon the same weekend so as to be able to take part in the historic 10th Amissa Bongo tour of Gabon beginning on Monday (February 16th).
As the only catagory-1 race in the continent, the Amissa Bongo tour of Gabon is dubbed as Africa’s own tour de France and Natanel Berhane was the only African to have won it in dramatic fashion last year while he was with his former team, Europcar. However, it’s sad not to see him defending his title in the Amissa Bongo tour next week. He wasn’t also allowed to defend his title that he won in the presidential tour of Turkey in 2013.
Now all eyes focused on the individual chronometer championship (ITT) on wednesday and the African road race championship on Saturday.
Good luck team Eritrea.