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Pedaling History: Eritrea’s Teklehaimanot and Kudus in France

Hero's welcome for Tour de France's youngest rider Merhawi Kudus


Pedaling History: Eritrea’s Teklehaimanot and Kudus in France**

Without question, the Tour de France is one of sport’s toughest ordeals and the ultimate test for professional cyclists. It was created in 1903, as French cyclists, the national sporting press, and the cycling industry organized modern cycle road racing as a sport and spectacle. By 1919, approximately one-third of the country’s population would watch at least some part of the Tour (Goldblatt 2006). Cycling quickly became amongst the most popular sports in France, and the Tour soon developed to gain popularity and preeminence across the world. This year’s edition of the Tour adds another special chapter to the race’s long, storied history as it involves the participation, for the first time, of Eritreans. Yet, Eritrea’s Daniel Teklehaimanot and Merhawi Kudus not only carry the flag of their nation but, as the first black African athletes in the Tour’s history, the hopes of a continent.

Cycling in Eritrea, like in France, originated on a foundation of exclusion. In the late 1800s, France was experiencing rapid social, political, and economic changes, and during this period, sport represented “a marker and indicator of the transformations occurring in society, culture and the economy, as well as in politics” (Holt 1981). Cycling was restricted to the bourgeois and aristocracy; however, as bicycles became more affordable, cycling spread to the working and lower classes.

In Eritrea, the first sighting of a bicycle was in 1898 in Massawa, having been introduced by the Italians. By the 1930s, clubs were being organized, and on April 21st 1937, the first race took place in Asmara. However, during this period, Eritreans were barred from races and clubs due to the segregationist policies of fascism. Not to be denied, Eritreans soon created their own competitions and formed their own clubs. Then, in 1939, a special “trial of strength” was organized by the Italian colonial administrators; Eritreans and Italians would compete together in the same race. In Mussolini’s Italy, sporting success was to embody the greater glory of the fascist nation-state, and the joint Eritrean-Italian race was expected to display the superiority of the colonial master. Instead, like Jesse Owens’ destruction of Hitler’s Nazi propaganda about Aryan supremacy in the 1936 Munich Olympics, Eritrea’s Ghebremariam Ghebru won the race and shattered colonial myths about Eritrean inferiority.

Even as Eritrea began to undergo large-scale socio-political developments and decades of war (1961-1991), the country’s love of cycling and passion for racing failed to diminish. During the 1970s, notable Eritrean cyclists included Abraham Teklehaimanot, Zeregaber Gebrehiwet, and Yemane Negasi (Tesfagiorgis 2011). After independence, cycling in Eritrea grew even further. Dozens of new teams, with boisterous fan clubs were formed, and hundreds of cyclists began to compete in challenging, technical races. In 2001, the Zur Eritrea (Giro d’Eritrea or Tour of Eritrea), a 700-mile race competed across ten stages, was re-launched (the inaugural edition was run in 1946, with five stages and thirty-four riders). The Zur Eritrea and other local races, involving a high calibre of competition and numerous challenges, have been vital stepping stones for Eritrean cyclists who have gone on to conquer and dominate African cycling. Evoking memories of some of the greatest dynasties within world sports, Eritrea has won the last five African Continental Cycling Championships (an unprecedented feat in the competition’s history).

Eritrea is a country of nine ethnicities, three working languages, several main religions, but one true sporting passion - cycling. With cycling growing across Africa, the question of a first black African Tour champion is shifting to “when” and not “if”. As Teklehaimanot and Kudus compete alongside the world’s best in France, they carry the dreams of a nation and the hopes of a continent.

**Dr. Fikrejesus Amahazion

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Pedaling History: Eritrea’s Teklehaimanot and Kudus in France Reviewed by Admin on 7:18 PM Rating: 5

4 comments:

  1. https://s.yimg.com/ea/img/-/150705/720beff6aa35fe3d1aa885aa8d1bfd50fda7fbde-1apg1tk.jpg

    Eritrean commissioner hails historic dayAFP

    Utrecht (Netherlands) (AFP) - Eritrea's commissioner of culture and sports on Saturday hailed the historic participation of two riders from his country in the Tour de France.

    Daniel Teklehaimanot, 26, was first off at 1400 local time (1200 GMT) of all the 198 riders taking part in the Tour on the 13.8km opening stage timetrial as a heatwave hit the Dutch Grand Depart town of Utrecht.

    He finished in a time of 16min 30sec, some way behind the leader, Australia's Rohan Dennis, who clocked 14min 56sec.

    Teklehaimanot's fellow MTN Qhubeka teammate Merhawi Kudus, 22, was the 45th starter and came home slightly slower in 16min 47sec.

    With the slowest rider so far clocking more than 17 minutes, the two Eritreans did at least avoid propping up the standings after the opening stage, although they will likely be ranked fairly low down by the end of the day.

    "It's an incredible day, one of the most important in the history of Eritrea and one all Eritreans will remember," said Zemede Tekle, the commissioner.

    "We have a special history, cycling in Eritrea is part of our life, it's our culture.

    "It was introduced by the Italians in the 1920s, the country was colonised by the Italians, they were living there... with their culture, with their behaviours.

    "So they have introduced the cycling and the Eritreans have acquired that and now it's part of our life."

    As for what he is expecting from the pair over the three-week tour, Tekle said the country was just proud to see them on the start line.

    "The very participation of two Eritreans is a lot, that's the greatest achievement.

    "We have their participation for the first time representing Africa, so this is the achievement.

    "In the Tour they might be... amongst the best ones, and (we would) welcome (that). Otherwise we are already happy of the participation of Eritreans."

    And Tekle insisted Eritreans all over the global diaspora and back home in East Africa would be tuning in to the Tour to watch the progress of Teklehaimanot and Kudus.

    "We have a satellite where all Eritreans in the world follows and it will be direct and every Eritrean wherever he is will follow it."

    https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/sport/a/28673248/eritrean-commissioner-hails-historic-day/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks. Good to know.

    ReplyDelete
  3. in reply to the history of cycling in Eritrea, ...Eritreans were not allowed to ride bicycles during the "Dergue" regime for some period of time, not even for transportation let alone for racing. This due to the fact that Eritrean Fedayeen were using bicycles to get around towns and as a mean of a "getaway" vehicle while assassinating Agame cadres, and the enemy started issuing license plates for bicycles and harassing the people. There were no bicycles on the street due to nature of the tyranny and there were many bicycles just simply rusting in a basement or a garage, i know mine did. So to those of us who have seen and lived though hellish tyranny, the site of an Eritrean riding a bike let alone on Tour de France has a different meaning, a meaning only those who lived through the darkest time in our history would understand and appreciate.


    Awet n'Hafash !
    Shaebia Forever !
    Long Live Ere !!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Deki Halal Meriet, Eritrean have written the history books of the human race and of cycling.

    Wait a minute; when it comes to cycling, this is for the second time the Eritreans made history. It was in colonial era, at a time when Africa was "scrambled" by colonial powers and Africa was a colony from coast to coast. In fact, it was at time when there were no such a thing called Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Tunisia, Algeria, etc, etc. It was in 1939, at the middle of colonialism in its highest form when Eritreans defied "colonialism" in its ugliest form and made history. The Eritrean defiant spirit reads:

    "In Eritrea, the first sighting of a bicycle was in 1898 in Massawa, having been introduced by the Italians. By the 1930s, clubs were being organized, and on April 21st 1937, the first race took place in Asmara. However, during this period, Eritreans were barred from races and clubs due to the segregationist policies of fascism. Not to be denied (in defiance), Eritreans soon created their own competitions and formed their own clubs. Then, in 1939, a special “trial of strength” was organized by the Italian colonial administrators; Eritreans and Italians would compete together in the same race.

    "In Mussolini’s Italy, sporting success was to embody the greater glory of the fascist nation-state, and the joint Eritrean-Italian race was expected to display the superiority of the colonial master. Instead, like Jesse Owens’ destruction of Hitler’s Nazi propaganda about Aryan supremacy in the 1936 Munich Olympics, Eritrea’s Ghebremariam Ghebru won the race and shattered colonial myths about Eritrean inferiority." Just after Jesse Owens shatter Nazism (Hitler) and so did Ghebremariam Ghebru shatter Fascism (Musoulini)

    Deki Halal Meriet, for more on Eritrean making history please read more on :

    http://www.tesfanews.net/eritrea-pedaling-history-at-tour-de-france/

    ReplyDelete

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