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Eritrean riders are the Jackie Robinson of the Grand Tour

Daniel Teklehaimanot, the ambassador of African cycling

Eritrean riders are the Jackie Robinson of the Grand Tour

By Bereket Kidane

When Jackie Robinson became the first black Major League Baseball player for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, he was taunted and racially abused by white players who realized that their dominance of the sport was about to end. Today, only 60% of Major League Baseball players are white. The game’s top athletes are blacks from the Caribbean countries like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba. The same thing will happen overtime to the UCI’s Grand Tours as well.

We are proud to witness  that Eritrean athletes are the trail blazers at the forefront of that change led by great champion riders like Daniel Teklehaimanot, Merhawi Kudus and Natnael Berhane.  They deserve all the accolades and praises they are getting from the international media.  They have put Eritrea on the cycling map of the world and have become “the talk of the town” at the Tour de France. Even the BBC couldn’t ignore what was happening and was forced to say something positive about Eritrea for a change.

African cycling has been made fun of in the past, but no longer. One has to be careful here when racially classifying people, of course, but there have been some North African riders from the Maghreb countries in the Grand Tour of Cycling before. In 1950, Abdel-Kader Zaaf, an Algerian who competed in the Tour de France, was cycling out front one day when extremely hot summer temperatures forced him to stop for a break.  Abdel Kader Zaaf, a devout Muslim, was offered wine by a spectator (his first taste of alcohol) and passed out under a tree.  When he woke up, he groggily climbed back on his bike, headed off in the wrong direction and was disqualified.  Glad to see Eritrean athletes are not doing anything to embarrass themselves or their country.

For such a small country, Eritrea is becoming epic in the cycling world.  Its cycling team is becoming among the best in the world winning jerseys and medals in top European contests.  Per capita, Eritrea probably has the most cycling medals in international competitions.   It’s unquestionably Africa’s Powerhouse and now has the King of the Mountain in Daniel Teklepolkadot.

Branislau Samoilau and his team CCC-Brandi-Polkowice better get used to seeing Eritrean and African riders in the Grand Tour.  Eritrean participation in the Grand Tour is not going to be a one-time thing.  Eritrea is likely there to stay.  There are more Eritrean riders waiting in the pipeline ready to follow in the footsteps of Daniel, Merhawi and Natnael and will likely join the Grand Tours in two to three years or sooner.   Be on the lookout for Frekalsi Debesay, Meron Russom, Mekseb Debesay, Teklit Tesfay, Tesfom Okubamariam, Metkel Eyob, Meron Teshome and the rest of Team Eritrea that are racing for feeder  teams.  They are coming.

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Eritrean riders are the Jackie Robinson of the Grand Tour Reviewed by Admin on 4:55 PM Rating: 5


  1. What a great ambassador Daniel Teklepolkadot has become for Eritrea. Simply brilliant!
    I told my wife I want a polka dot shirt for Christmas

  2. He just keeps making history everyday! Eritreans will never forget this month - July 2015. So exciting!

  3. Danny is the people's champ. Awet n Hafash!

  4. Thank you Dany, thanks Merhawi, thanks Natu, Thanks Eritrea...

  5. Hurray and power to him! In spite of all the hardships and limited resources he managed to strive. Just imagine how many Eritrean/African stars would have/could have risen to the top on every competition, in business, sports, science, medicine, technology, research, exploration..etc, had there been a comfortable, free, fair and democratic system of governance in place. Imagine the infinite windows and doors of opportunities it would have opened as well as infinite resources it would have made available to so many Eritreans, if such a system of governance were in place. Imagine how much contagious love and credibility would have earned to the regime, who would overcome his ego/bitterness/paranoid/PTSD and let people's wish come true, followed by lifetime rewards of being resurrected as Angels. Imagine breathing fresh air of freedom for all, think and speak your mind freely, travel to and from freely, tap into entrepreneurial and inventive mind freely, Imagine and imagine to experience and live in freedom and liberty immersed society, nurtured by all. Imagine!

  6. Viva Daniel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. We all know how hard Eritrean cyclist have to work to come to the level of international competitions. You can see the Cycling Outfits they were in Asmara while training, what they eat after in Cafeterias after training, etc, you know they are not from a well to do families. Some of them even train with Mountain Bike, to save their expensive bike from getting broken during training. These guys are most likely the sons of our freedom fighters, and hence most likely not from rich families. Daniel case is even more amazing … coming from DubaRuba from a BIG family (even in Eritrean standard, like my own). He had many problems in his life, including one of his legs being slightly longer than the other (big problem for a cyclist) and a serious irregular fast beating heart (I know how is as one of my family member had it, had a surgery & correct it), which thank God he had corrected at age 21. Add to all these problems, the VISA problems! He could not able to enroll to train (& compete) on time to outside Eritrea. I remember I was in Asmara, when he had problem getting VISA to Turkey, to compete in tour of Turkey.
    Daniel is 26 years old now. If it was not for his VISA problems, he would have been in Tour de France at a much earlier age, most likely with a non-African team like ORICA–GreenEDGE. It is probably hard to compare Heroes from times, different countries and with different upbringing. He deserves the biggest recognition, because DANIEL IS THE FIRST OF THE FIRST IN ERITERA AND AFRICA. Credit is also due to his family, Eritrean Cycling Federation, his coaches and mentors, and
    above all PFDJ for making it possible.

  8. Wedi Erey HAYET !!!


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