The country we are talking about named Eritrea and the two guys are Meron Teshome and Amanuel Mengis. In this interview, you can learn more about what their hopes, dreams and expectations in their first year in Europe.
BIKE AID: Amanuel, you are still a quite young man. With 21 years it is now your first time to be that long time and that far away from home and your family. What are your feelings now?
Amanuel Mengis (21): I am more than happy to have the opportunity being here. Yes, on the other hand it is also not so easy form e, being far away from home for a long time. But you know, to me it means to get the biggest chance of my life so far and that although I am still this young. Many people in my country are dreaming about getting such opportunities. For us in Eritrea sport – and especially cycling (sport no. 1 in Eritrea) – is unique opportunity to build a great future out of our country. But still I already miss my family and hope I can stand it the next months, but I am strong (laughs).
Meron, for you it is a bit different. You already gained two years of experience in South Africa when you were member of the MTN-Qhubeka feeder team. What are your expectations now in Europe?
Meron Teshome (23): Talking about expectations is always not so easy. Yes, I already gained some experience in South Africa when I was trained in the UCI cycle center but also with the national team. I also did the Tour de l’Avenir (biggest stage race for U23), but this is quite a very different challenge. Now I have to compete with the best riders in the world and that is something really great. So I hope I can gain even more and a very different experience how to race on that level, how to do a good sprint at that level and maybe one day there is a good result. That would be very nice.
Amanuel Mengis: (laughs again) yeah, Meron is always kind of understated. He certainly has couple of good success already. But yes he is right. This is a quite big thing now and we can not raise too many expectations now. It is our both first real year and season in Europe and my personal goal is to develop and to adapt at this high level here. The race – schedule that we have is very challenging to us but it gives us also the opportunity to go this way and getting used to it.
Meron, you said that the level here in Europe is so high and different. What exactly is the difference in racing in Africa or Europe?
Meron Teshome: I don’t want to be misunderstood. Races in Africa are also very hard and already at a good level, but on their own way. That means that in Africa the races are not very controlled and there are attacks from the beginning of the race until the end. So the race is very aggressive and selective. Here in Europe the base – level is incredibly high. The races are more tactical and controlled but on a very high level. That leads to a huge fatigue of the body.
You two guys just started at the Mallorca Challenge in Spain with a lot of the best riders in the world. What did you feel?
Meron Teshome: (with bright shining eyes): It was just an incredible moment. When I rode next to my companion Daniel Teklehaymanot (Eritrean Pro-Cyclist, Team Dimension Data WorldTour) and all of a sudden Fabian Cancellara turned up next to me. He is my idol since I was a child and it felt like a dream. I immediately said this to Daniel in our language tgrinya, that I can not really believe that this is true. Awesome feeling.
Amanuel Mengis: yeah yeah, that were my thoughts when Sir Bradley Wiggins was riding next to me all the day. I could see the whole race what a guy is doing who already won the Tour de France. Incredible and fantastic moment, and this in my first race for Stradalli – BIKE AID.
Good signal. What is BIKE AID meaning to you guys and what meaning has BIKE AID in your country Eritrea?
Meron Teshome: To me, this team means much more than just a “normal” cycling team. It is more like a kind of family. That gets clear when you look at the other teams in a hotel or at the race. Lot of them sit together but they do not really talk or laugh. With us, we have lot of fun together and most of the time joking around and just having a good time. Lot of the time other guys are looking at us and asking themselves why we have that much fun.
In Eritrea lot of people know BIKE AID now and the concept and project behind it. They talk a lot about it and it is also in the Television. Especially after the success of Mekseb (Debesay), when he moved from BIKE AID to the WorldTour. Now people see BIKE AID as the big chance for “their” riders to make their way and represent a whole country.
It is also a huge chance for us African riders to learn the skills that are needed to “use” the physical talent in a bike race. That is what we are missing in Afirca and BIKE AID gives this opportunity.
Coming to the end. What do you like here in Europe / Germany and what not?
Amanuel Mengis: The roads are awesome here. Perfect spots for training. I stayed a bit longer in Mallorca and it was just great to train there. I also enjoyed the coffee-stops during our training rides in Mallorca, that was a very nice feeling.
Meron Teshome: (starts laughing loud) yes, this is really good. But I was experiencing the other side when I arrived couple of weeks ago. During a ride it started to snow, and it was fist time in my life that I saw snow. So the positive excitement turned quickly into suffering when I realized how cold it is. Also I must admit that I never saw that much rainy days in a row.