For Years, Africa Persists for a Place in the European Cycling

Eritrean riders racing in European Cycling
Mekseb Debesay, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Natnael Berhane are the three Eritrean cyclists who form the Dimension Data, a team characterized by its solidarity

BY MANEL MONTILLA *

The dominance of African athletes in the background world has been well known for decades. Ethiopian Haile Gebreselassie, Eritrean Zersenay Tadesse, the four times World half-marathon champion and the first athlete from his country to win an Olympic medal, a bronze in the 10,000 in Athens 2004 final or the Eritrean Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, who also won the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China.



They are all some examples of the milestones achieved by the African sport, but in Africa, is currently not the athletics the only sport discipline that triumphs beyond their borders.

For a few years, Eritrea, a country of little more than 5 million inhabitants, located north of Ethiopia and Kenya stands out in the world of cycling, trying to leave behind the image of a poor nation full of young people willing to die in a boat in an effort to reach Europe. One of the teams that is concerned with promoting and promoting African riders on the European continent is the Dimension Data, founded in 2007 and belonging to the Continental category since 2008.

Dimension Data, Humanitarian Will

South African based, it aims to help compete at the highest level to African cyclists, explains its sport director Álex Sans, who this week leads the team to the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. Sans is aware of the difficulty involved in getting great stars and triumphs in the UCI World Tour : “In the long run you can not rule anything out. In Eritrea cycling is the main sport, there are more investment and lots of hobby. In the national championships last year, in the elite, more than 200 cyclists from the African continent left despite the difficulties to get out of there.”

The team thrives on the best amateur cyclists at the UCI World Center in South Africa, competing for Africa and those who show the best qualities signed and passed into the ranks of Dimension Data. A team that has a policy to have 50% of African riders in the workforce and which is also characterized by its humanitarian work. Part of proceeds from races and donations goes to a Qhubeka charity project that aims to provide African children with bicycles so that they can go to school. Last year they managed to send 5000 bicycles to Africa.

In this edition of the Volta, the team has three Eritreans – Natnael Berhane (25 years), who stands out for having won the Tour of Turkey 2013 and Eritrea road and time trial national champion; Mekseb Debesay (25 years), who had a great 2015 and that last season was 3rd in the African road race Championship; and Daniel Teklehaimanot. Born in Debarwa, he was the first African professional cyclist to run in the highest level of cycling and participated in the Vuelta a España 2012. In 2014 he signs for MTN Qhubeka and in 2015 he managed to lead, during the Tour, the classification of the mountain becoming the first African rider to wear the polka dot jersey.

That is why Daniel is proud to represent his country in Europe: “I hope to set an example to all the young people in my country and I think that in the future can we achieve great things because there are very good African climbers who can achieve victories”.


* Software Translation from Spanish