AFRICAN Continental Individual Time Trial (ITT) Championship concluded earlier today with Eritrean Daniel Teklehaimanot unusually finishing in second place for the Silver medal behind Tsgabu Grmay of Ethiopia while Merhawi Kudus, who had competed in both the Elite and U23 ITT, had won Gold in the U23 ITT while finishing 5th in the Elites.
The ITT Championship Gold medal, that Daniel had successfully defended for 4 years in a row since 2010, has slipped through his finger this time.
However, the manner in which he had lost the continent’s ITT title hasn’t gone down well with many of his loving fans at home and in diaspora. Many couldn’t come to terms with it, particularly after the young protégé, Merhawi Kudus, took responsibility for the unfortunate result befallen on Daniel, when earlier today immediately after the award ceremony he talked to Eri-Cycling and also posted an apology to Daniel, also publicly apologizing by posting on his own Facebook page saying, “Sorry Dani, it was my mistake….”
Merhawi regretted not noticing Tsigabu taking advantage of him during a climb where the latter, according to Merhawi talking to Eri-Cycling, had drafted using Merhawi’s slipstream illegally gaining an advantage. If indeed that is true and if there exists a video evidence of such an illegal manoeuvre, I see no reason why the UCI shouldn’t take an action against Tsigabu’s illegal move.
According to UCI regulations, which the African continental ITT championship is also governed by, states as follows…
“ITTs are also referred to as “the race of truth”, as winning depends only on each rider’s strength and endurance, and not on help provided by team-mates and others riding ahead and creating a slipstream.”
In 2013, the UCI commissar in the one Day Circuit of Asmara road race had disqualified the race winner Meron Teshome for a much less offense as compared to that of Tsigabu’s. The justification was that the UCI Commissar used the rulebook that disallows riders competing in first and second category races from using radio communication, except in competitions of HC (heute Catagorie) and world Tours.
As a result, Meron Teshome had his winner medal snatched of him and disqualified while the lucky second placed, Abdallah BenYoucuf of Algeria, was promoted and awarded Meron’s Gold medal. The Asmara fans went absolutely berserk but rules are rules and if one dares to flaunt the rules, then one cannot moan when faced with the harsh consequence that may follow it.
A mistake in the comprehension of the UCI rules and regulations had cost us dearly and I thought the first thing one expects from the our national coach, Samson, is to lodge a formal complaint indicating that the UCI rules in ITT competition had clearly been transgressed by Tsgabu Grmay of Ethiopia to illegally and unfairly win the continent’s ITT championship.
There is no two ways about it as what Merhawi had claimed got to be carefully investigated and if the commissars find there was actually an illegal maneuver in the race by Tsgabu, gaining an unfair advantage over his competitors, then we’ll see if UCI shows consistency in applying the rules to the letters. After all, according to the UCI ITT regulations, “winning depends only on each rider’s strength and endurance, and not on help provided by team-mates and others riding ahead and creating a slipstream.”
However, the fact that Team coach Samson had chosen Merhawi over the current Eritrean national ITT champion Natnael Berhane is purely tactical. If indeed Natnael were to be chosen over Merhawi, then Natnael and Daniel would have competed against one another only for the Elites (but not for the U23 as both are over 23 years of age). Because of that wise decision, Merhawi had ended up winning Gold in the U23 championship even though his well earned effort has also gifted Tsgabu with the elites title quite illegally.
Yet, Samson’s tactic is a no-brainier simply because choosing Merahwi and Daniel representing Eritrea in the ITT was with a view of winning a maximum of two Gold and and one Silver medals as compared with only one Gold and one Silver in the Elites only if he has selected Natnael and Daniel.
Every Eritrean cycling fans need to apply pressure on the UCI Whigs by writing a letter asking them to apply their own rules in this regard.
Until then, we wish our riders all the best in the main road race this coming Saturday and hoping today’s setback triggering them to react in a positive way with a dominant performance. All our athletes, Mekseb, Daniel, Merhawi and Natanel can potentially win the Road race but Team Eritrea and coach Samson as well as all the riders need to make the decision much earlier as to who they are prepared to work for this Saturday.
Obviously, they can’t afford to race against one another in the road race simply because the result would depend purely on team work. Anything less than that would only proof to be committing a suicide.
According to the statistic and the record so far, Natnael will be tipped to lead the team for his third Continental Road race championship. He has won two Gold medals in the road race in the last 5 years ( Eritrea-2011 and Ougadougou-2012) while Daniel winning the same event in Rwanda-2010 and Tesfom Oqbamariam in Egypt-December 2013.
This year, the 2014 African Continental cycling championship is unusually taking place in 2015 instead of in its usual fixture of November or December. Next will most probably be held in either Morocco or Algeria. They are both the powerhouse of African cycling after Eritrea and the fact that they haven’t yet hosted the African Continental Cycling Championship would probably favour them to be the host.