By Pierre Carrey
The exploit of the Eritreans is historic
To reinforce their position at the top of the UCI Africa Tour’s individual and team rankings, the “Red Sea Boys” beat the professionals to win two stages of the Tropical Amissa Bongo at the end of January. This victory from the Sub-Saharan Africans is an event that hasn’t been seen for decades in world cycling.
In the final stage, from Owendo to Libreville, Natnael Berhane anticipated the sprint to surprise his breakaway partners, which included French professional Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step). Berhane currently lies eighth in the UCI Africa Tour ranking. His compatriot Daniel Teklehaymanot, who also won a stage of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, keeps his pole position (totalling 237.66 points), in front of the Moroccan Adil Jelloul (156 points) and the French rider Anthony Charteau (112 points), overall winner of the Tropicale and winner of the mountains classification in the last Tour de France.
“Eritrea is a true cycling nation,” commented Jean-René Bernaudeau, Manager of Team Europcar.
The Eritreans have a third rider in the UCI Africa Tour top ten with Meron Russom, (5th), who finished 11th in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo.
Logically, the nations table remains in the hands of the “Red Sea Boys”, who had already dominated the African Continental Championships and the Tour du Rwanda in November. Morocco hangs onto third place in front of South Africa, which is making up part of its slow start and more or less tripled its number of points in February. Its excellent results during its national tour, which will be taken into account for the next UCI Africa Tour ranking, will undoubtedly reduce the gaps even further.
In February, African cycling was boosted by two new Continental Teams registered in Algeria. Both count eight riders. The Groupement Sportif Pétrolier Algérie will be led by Ezzedinne Agab, time trial bronze medallist at the Continental Championships. The other team, Ville d’Alger-Ain Benian, puts an accent on young riders, with the average age ranging between 19 and 24. Africa now has four UCI Continental Teams – compared with only one last year -, with the South African Team Bonitas and MTN-Qhubeka,currently in the lead of the UCI Africa Tour team ranking.
African Riders at UCI Training Centres
The UCI Continental Centre, managed by Jean-Pierre Van Zyl, continued its work in February with preparation courses for the Tour of South Africa. Six riders rode in this event in the centre’s colours : three Ethiopians (Tsgabu Gebremaryam, Solomon Bitew and Estifanos Gebresilassie) and three Eritreans (Daniel Teklehaymanot, Natnael Berhane et Misgna Okbatsion).
Four other athletes stayed at the centre to continue their training : Isiaka Cisse (CIV), Nicodem Habiyambere (RWA), Obert Chembe (ZAM) and Noufou Minougou (BUR).
Meanwhile, several African riders will be part of the next training camp at the World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland.
Among those arriving in Switzerland for mid-March, are Teklehaymanot, for his third year, his compatriot Natnael Berhane as well as Tsgabu Gebremaryam. Other arrivals scheduled before the end of April include Nicodem Habiyambere (RWA) and Aziz Nikiema (BUR).