“Eritrea, a country of 6 million people, independent since 1993, is just beginning to enter the dance. With spectacular results: the last three titles African champions were won by Teklehaimanot and Berhane. ‘This is undoubtedly the best country in the continent'”
By Sylvain Mouillard
[As Translated by Google Chrome & Bing Translation]
Sunday, while Philippe Gilbert and others to explain the oldest classic, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Natnael Berhane exercise his talent around Alanya for the opening stage of the Tour of Turkey. While waiting to speak in the Ardennes races, his relatives say cut for him, Eritrean cyclist is quietly testing its classes on second class.
At 22, Natnael Berhane saw his first season as a professional rider. He landed early February Dessessart mansion, the seat of the Europcar Vendee, where he lives full-time team. His training partners are called Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland. To say that the change of scenery.
“Versatile.” His greatest victory, Natnael Berhane says he won in 2010, the tower of Eritrea. A step specific profile: “60 km flat and 60 kilometers of ascent to reach the capital Asmara. It passed from sea level to 2400 meters. ” Berhane remembers crossed the line solo, putting his nearest rival in four minutes. Since then, his horizon has changed. The man left his parents lived a few months in Switzerland, at the World Cycling Centre (WCC), before attracting the gaze of Bernaudeau. “It is versatile, not very good,” said the boss of Europcar. After his compatriot Daniel Teklehaimanot in 2012, is the second Berhane Eritrean runner turning professional in Europe.
A rare phenomenon. Besides Chris Froome, Kenyan birth became Columbia, only South Africa has provided good horses to the international peloton. Eritrea, a country of 6 million people, independent since 1993, is just beginning to enter the dance. With spectacular results: the last three titles African champions were won by Teklehaimanot and Berhane. “This is undoubtedly the best country in the continent, says Michel Thèze, former coach of the CMC. And it will get even better: there is a very large pool of young. ” First reason: the Italian colonization, which began in the late XIX th century, which brought the bike in manners. “This is the number 1 sport in front of athletics, says Berhane. During the summer, during the Tour de France, nobody works! Everyone is glued to the TV. ” Another factor predispositions Eritreans for cycling. “They live at high altitude, which is very good for endurance sports, Michel Thèze analysis. Their race program is rather statement. ”
Like many young raw, Natnael Berhane begins by VTT, which still gives him a certain agility course. At 14, he was the national champion in youth. But the transition to the road is not easy. “My parents would not buy me bike. It was expensive, and they thought it was a waste of time. ” Paternal jeweler, relented, and podiums are linked. Natnael Berhane was spotted by officials of CMC, which in 2011 he proposed to integrate their structure. The nestled a few kilometers from Lake Geneva training center, in the heart of the Swiss Alps, annually hosts young riders from around the world. One way to encourage new talent, from Africa, South America or Asia.
“Natnael had a technical background, it was mainly to teach him the tactical race,” recalls Michel Thèze. The adaptation, including climate, is good. “He got a good spot on the Tour of Flanders hopes, it’s a real guarantee of strength,” Judge Bernaudeau.
“Inbreeding.” Further experiments are more difficult. Berhane discovered racism a part of the pack, that request (to be polite) is a Black card there. ” They thought I did not understand their discussions, he smiles. Except that I speak Italian, Spanish and English! ” At Europcar, the environment seems more peaceful. “It is not a gift to be black a bike, recognizes Bernaudeau, but I can vouch for equal treatment. Anyway, adds athletic director, in a world that lives in inbreeding, it has a duty to look elsewhere. “