How Eritrean Cycling Made it to the Top of the Giro d’Italia | Africa’s Cycling Revolution
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How Eritrean Cycling Made it to the Top of the Giro d’Italia | Africa’s Cycling Revolution

(AFRICA CYCLING REVOLUTION) (TSEAZEGA VILLAGE, ERITREA) We are just farmers. At first I didn’t know
anything about cycling. My plan was to make good
farmers. (SOLOMON DEBESAY, FARMER) I never saw this coming. My name is
Mosana Debesay Abraham, I am elite road cyclist. (MOSANA DEBESAY, CYCLING ROAD –
2015) Cycling has a long history
in Eritrea. It even continued during wars and hard times. We inherited that from the
Italians. (ERITREA, THE CYCLING DYNASTY) (ASMARA, ERITREA) Cycling was brought to Eritrea
by the Italian colonisers. In 1936, only Italians
owned bikes. (YEMANE NEGASSI,
mid-1940s. This bike was
my great-grandfather’s. (MEHARI TESFAY, MECHANIC) It is a Windsor, made in Italy. It has worked for
60 years without a problem. All our children and
our brothers have learnt to ride
on this bike. Everybody gets around by bike. All Eritrean children
know how to ride a bike. Sport is a form of
competitive struggle… When we refer to
competitive sports, “Berbere” competed
against the Italians, and this came to represent
the fight against colonialism at that critical time. Cycling has a long
history in Eritrea, races were held every weekend. And I watched them with my mates, Yemane Tekeste, Zeregabir… (SAMSOM SOLOMON, COACH OF
THE NATIONAL TEAM OF ERITREA) Cheering on the best riders
at that time. They inspired me to start
cycling. I started cycling in 1962. (OLYMPIC GAMES, TOKYO 1964) Two years later, when I was 18, I was lucky enough
to be in the 1964 Olympics. This is my greatest
achievement, the best moment of my life. If I compare those days I started with now, it makes me very happy to see the progress. To be the first Eritrean woman
in the Olympics is my big dream. In our culture, girls are not
encouraged to take up cycling. People think girls should
stay at home all the time. That has impacted the number
of female riders in Eritrea. I even have had negative
comments from other families. She can decide
what is best for her. Frekalsi drew the whole
family into cycling. My brothers were my greatest
inspiration to start cycling. The Debesays are a very successful family. They are a
strong, healthy family. It was very surprising. One day Mekseb, when he was in
the third division, out-lapped all the others. (MEKSEB DEBESAY, CYCLING ROAD –
TEAM DIMENSION DATA) (BEST AFRICAN RIDER AWARD 2014) Yes, he out-lapped everyone,
and won the race alone. Then the organisers
asked him to stop the race, and he won. (TOUR OF ERITREA 2013) When I won the title
of Best African Rider 2014, that year brought a lot
of changes in my life. (TOUR OF RWANDA 2014) The happiest moment for me was when I became professional
with Team Dimension Data. The two oldest have retired, Mosana is joining
a continental team. Mekseb, in a couple of years, could be one of the best
professional cyclists. They also support
each other as a family. I think that is the key
to their success. I believe Mosana
will be successful, as well as my younger
brother Yakob. Respected fellow Eritreans,
in today’s programme, after several races, Merhawi Kudus
has returned home. – Welcome back, Merhawi.
– Thank you, Ema. You have raced in the
Tour de France as the youngest participant, also in the Vuelta a Espana
and the Giro d’Italia. (MERHAWI KUDUS, CYCLING ROAD –
IN TOUR DE FRANCE) I’m really excited
to finish and to make history, especially with Daniel, we are the first African riders
in the Tour de France. If I finish that race, it means I make some
big history. We started the celebration,
it was really amazing. (BEREKET MENGISTEAB
“DANIEL AND MERHAWI”) I am lucky to see
our cycling reach this level… (DANIEL TEKLEHAIMANOT, ROAD
CYCLIST) There are young people coming
up. (OLYMPIC GAMES, RIO 2016) We have faith that what we
are doing will lead to the top, so we have to keep working
in this direction. Daniel’s result
in Rio de Janeiro was by far the best record. For sure, the altitudes here
of up to 2,400 metres help us. It is an important factor
in our success in cycling. That is why we have
the best climbers in Africa. The ride from Asmara to Massawa
is mostly downhill. (ASMARA – MASSAWA
65 KM DESCENT) Down from 2,400 to 200 metres. The road is mostly downhill
with a number of turns. My dream is to work hard and race in great tours. I hope from next year,
you know, that I am for the podium,
or that I am for results. My biggest dream
is to go to France. I have never imagined myself
at this level. Victory demands great sacrifice and commitment. When you struggle,
you can’t give up. You have to keep going. (ELHAM MOHAMED, “RIDE”)


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