By Pierre Carrey, cyclingnews.com
The 2011 African Continental Championships will take place in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, from 9 to 13 November, the UCI has told Cyclingnews. They were previously planned for the Ivory Coast but the international federation decided to postpone hosting the event in that country to another year. The Ivory Coast is still unstable despite the investiture of new president Alassane Ouattara on May 21, after six months of civil war.
The UCI delegate to Africa, Jean-Pierre Van Zyl, also the director of the UCI Continental Centre in South Africa, will approve the new course next week in Eritrea, on the occasion of the national championships.
The race will be particularly important for women riders as it will serve as qualifying for the 2012 Olympics.
It’s the first time that Eritrea hosts the African Championships since the reform of cycling in 2005. This last minute application is mainly due to the success of its national riders, who dominated the African Championships last year in Rwanda.
On that occasion, Daniel Teklehaimanot notably captured the gold medal in individual and team time trials, as well as the road race, and also won the Under-23 title in every competition. Currently stagiaire at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Switzerland and looking for a professional team, Teklehaimanot is an iconic athlete in his country.
A new generation is emerging in his slipstream, including Natnael Berhane, a 21-year-old puncheur, winner of a stage at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo ahead of Quick Step’s Jérôme Pineau.
Because of its Italian colonial heritage, cycling remains the number one sport in Eritrea. Most of the riders show striking climbers’ attributes thanks to the very hilly roads from the Red Sea coast to the capital Asmara, which sits at an altitude of 2,325 metres.