ERITREA’s Merhawi Kudus (Team MTN-Qhubeka) is one of the favourites to take over from compatriot Natnael Berhane (Europcar) and claim victory in the Presidential of Turkey, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Last year, the Presidential Tour of Turkey had made headlines by crowning the first Black African rider in a HC race with a line-up worthy of a World Tour event.
At the top of Elmali, the finishing point of the TUR’s queen stage, Natnael Berane had caused a sensation by raising his arms in victory. The charming Europcar rider confirmer his talent since by winning the Tour of Gabon and should make his Grand Tour debut this season. His rise to the top last year on the Turkish roads was all the more emblematic as it crowned years of efforts by the International Cycling Union (UCI) to detect and train promising young riders from a continent so far undervalued in cycling terms.
Berhane had warned he was not an isolated case and that an Eritrean would soon feature into the very best in the world – now Merhawi Kudus, 20, will be at the start of the TUR to defend his country’s colours. The young Eritrean has been one of his continent’s brightest prospects since he joined the UCI’s African centre of Potchefstrom in South-Africa, and later the world centre of Aigle, in Switzerland: “We had rarely seen a rider with so much class,” said trainer Jean-Jacques Henry, who looked after him as a trainee with Continental team Bretagne-Seche Environnement.
Kudus finally turned pro for African team MTN-Qhubek and has kept earning honours since the start of the season – 2nd in the Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia and 3rd in the Mzansi Tour in South-Africa. “He really is a great satisfaction for us,” said team manager Douglas Ryder.
“His climbing abilities are obvious. That is why, in spite of his young age, we made him our leader for the Tour of Turkey, a very important race in our programme and we’ll also pin hopes for stage wins on our two young sprinters, Youssef Reguigui and Kristian Sbaragli.”
For their second year as a Continental Pro team, the South-African outfit went up a gear by gaining an invitation to the Spanish Vuelta: “It was a sign of recognition for the work we’re doing for young riders and especially African riders,” added Ryder, who sees the Tour of Turkey as a turning point of the season.
And for cycling lovers who are not yet aware of Merhawi Kudus, the TUR will be a great opportunity to discover his talent on the screen in a race now broadcast internationally.
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