But this time there is no more superlative. The team is now in Eritrea which has a very special meaning indeed to the team, because Eritrea is unique, is a special country and a huge adventure. And the first riders from Africa in the team were riders from Eritrea. It has a bit from: back to the roots!
But what makes it so special to be in Eritrea? This more or less small country is located at Africa’s east coast, right at the red sea and shares border with countries such as Sudan, Djibouti or Ethiopia but has a big and unique cycling tradition and history! The Italians brought this culture to this country during the colonial times beginning of the 20th century. Nowadays cycling has a similar or even bigger meaning to the people in Eritrea than Football in our country. You can imagine that every little kid dreams of a big cycling career and talks about their legends and heroes. But not only names like Eddy Merckx or Miguel Indurain are popular, it is more the fact that their own heroes such as Daniel Teklehaymanot oder our former rider Mekseb Debesay – who made it from BIKE AID to the World Tour – are the idols of today’s generation in Eritrea.
And now our guys are there, are allowed to feel this special atmosphere and enthusiasm that is not easy at all to describe. So many nice and positive people in a country, that gives you just astonishing moments.
The first of 4 UCI races has been held yesterday and led over 113 kilometers from the city of Foro to Ghindae. There is always an estimation in Europe that races in Africa are not on a high level, but this is completely wrong when you have ever done races there. In countries like Eritrea, Rwanda or in northern Africa you find a huge potential and huge talent of riders who all glow to fulfil their dream of becoming a famous cyclist outside of their country! The only thing they don’t have: experience and the ability to proof their talent outside or in Europe! But from a point of motivation, there is no single word to describe that as this kind of motivation and passion simply not exists in our countries. Only in Eritrea there are 1.000 Junior riders dreaming to become stars in the cycling world.
If you take the conditions for instance, it is also very hard for European riders to compete as the capital Asmara is located on altitude of 2.400 m sea level. Not that easy to get enough of oxygen that is so important to deliver a good performance.
But fortunately there are also 3 Eritrean riders in our team Stradalli – BIKE AID who are perfectly adapted to those conditions. And yesterday it was Meron Amanuel who managed the conditions the best of the team and finished on a great 5th place just beaten by 37 seconds back on the winner!
Also Meron Teshome delivered a good performance on 11th place. All in all a good opening of an interesting and unique week that needs to be followed!