National Cycling Championships: Eritrea’s Premier Cycling Event

News Sport

By Habtom Tesfamichael

The Eritrean National Cycling Championships, an annual event on the national cycling calendar, commenced its activities on Thursday with time trial (ITT) competition. The Road Race will be held today 15th June, 2024. This year’s edition features a highly competitive field. In addition to the promising domestic riders, over 20 professional cyclists who compete for various WorldTour, Continental, and Pro-Continental teams will be participating. Both the men’s and women’s categories will be contested.

Given the caliber of athletes set to take the start line, the outcome of the championships is difficult to predict. Fans and spectators can expect an exciting and closely-contested event showcasing the depth of cycling talent in Eritrea.

WorldTour Riders Dominate Time Trials

The national cycling championships kicked off with time trials on Thursday. Men’s Elite and U23 tackled a demanding 36 km course over two laps, while Women’s Elite and U23 raced an 18 km circuit. Additionally, Junior Men were slated to complete an 18 km lap, and the junior women were scheduled for a 15 km single lap course.

As anticipated, the Time Trial discipline saw riders from the WorldTour teams dominate proceedings. Time trials are a brutal test of both physical prowess and meticulous equipment optimization. The experience these top professional riders possess, coupled with their access to cutting-edge time trial bikes, proved to be a significant advantage. Once again, the WorldTour riders secured victory in this year’s competition.

Amanuel Retains Elite Men’s Time Trial Title

Amanuel Gebregziabher and Adiam Dawit successfully retained their respective ITT Championship titles.
Amanuel Gebregziabher successfully retained his ITT Championship titles.

Amanuel Gebregziabher, the defending champion and member of the American Liddle Trek team, successfully defended his title in the Men’s Elite category. He conquered the 36-kilometer course in a remarkable time of 43 minutes, 32 seconds, and 29 microseconds, averaging an impressive speed of 49.6 km/hr.

Henok Muluebrhan (Astana Qazaqstan) and Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty) followed closely behind, securing second and third place respectively. Amanuel’s consecutive victory marks him as the only rider to achieve this feat since Daniel Teklehaimanot‘s back-to-back wins. Daniel holds the record for winning the time trial event at the Eritrean National Cycling Championships on five occasions – in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Ammanuel has amassed an impressive 7,578 kilometers of racing so far in 2024, achieved across 49 competition days. This total distance surpasses any other Eritrean rider’s annual mileage, underscoring his prodigious work rate and competitive schedule.

Following his successful defense of the national time trial title on Thursday, he expressed confidence and readiness for the road race event scheduled for Saturday. Amanuel will look to replicate his previous road race victory at the Eritrean National Cycling Championship, which he secured in 2014 while he was with the Asbeco team.

Adiam Dawit Defends Women’s Time Trial Title

In the women’s 18-kilometer time trial, Adiam Dawit of the Denden Club secured her second consecutive national title, completing the course in a time of 26 minutes, 37 seconds and 26 micro-seconds at an average speed of 40.5 km/hr. Adiam’s dominant performance also earned her the gold medal in the under-23 categories.

In the Elite Women's group, Adiam Dawit from Denden Club clinched the gold medal in the Individual Time Trial (ITT). Milena Yafiet from Denden club secured the silver medal, while Suzana Fisahaye from the Defense Forces took home the bronze.
In the Elite Women’s group, Adiam Dawit from Denden Club clinched the gold medal in the Individual Time Trial (ITT). Milena Yafiet from Denden club secured the silver medal, while Suzana Fisahaye from the Defense Forces took home the bronze.

In the junior men’s event, Nahom Efriem of EriTel emerged victorious cloaking 23 minutes, 16 seconds at an average speed of 46.4 km/hr. Meanwhile, the junior women’s title was claimed by Adiam Isak, from the Southern Region.

The Road Race: An Anticipated Showdown

As anticipation builds for today’s road race, cycling enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting a thrilling spectacle. The field will feature not only the nation’s top domestic talents, but also several world-class riders that fans have grown accustomed to watching compete at the highest levels of the sport. Cycling fans who regularly watch these riders compete on television are expected to fill the streets of Asmara to witness the battle unfold live and in person.

In the junior U23 women, Adiam Isak from team Debub takes gold in the Individual Time Trial.
In the junior U23 women, Adiam Isak from team Debub takes gold in the Individual Time Trial.

Leading the charge of WorldTour riders are Amanuel Gebregziabher and Natnael Tesfatsion, both compete for the American Lidl-Trek team. They will be joined by a formidable trio from Intermarche-Circus-Wanty the team – Biniam Girmay, Mewael Girmay, and Aklilu Arefaine, as well as Henok Mulubrhan of Astana Qazaqstan.

In addition to the WorldTour Team riders, the field is studded with accomplished riders from Continental and Pro-Continental teams. Eritrean cycling legends Merhawi Kudus and Metkel Eyob, representing the Malaysian Terengganu team, will be among the favorites.

Other big names include Dawit Yemane (crowned champion in 2021) and Yoel Habteab from the German Bike Aid team, as well as Natnael Brhane (champion of 2015 and 2019) and Petros Mengs (runner-up in last year’s championship) of the Turkish Beykoz team.

Further boosting the star power is the presence of Nahom Zeray from the Q36.5 team, and Aklilu Gebrehiwet and Even Yemane of the Philippine 7-Eleven team. Looming large over the proceedings is the defending champion Awet Aman, who now plies his trade at the UCI World Team level.

According to the National Cycling Federation of Eritrea’s schedule, the elite and under-23 men’s race will consist of 17 laps covering a total distance of 173.4 kilometers. Meanwhile, the elite and under-23 women’s race will feature 8 laps covering 81.6 kilometers. The junior men will compete in an 18-lap race covering 112.2 kilometers, and the junior women will race over 4 laps totaling 40.8 kilometers.

Among the elite contenders, Biniam Girmay is one of the favorites in today’s road race. His performances thus far suggest he has the legs to stay with the peloton until the closing stages. If he can manage that, his teammates at Intermarche-Circus-Wanty, Aklilu Arefaine and Mewael Girmay, could be crucial in setting him up for a powerful sprint finish.

However, pure sprint finish is uncommon at the Eritrean National Road Race Championships. The demanding course often leads to attacks and breakaways throughout the race, making it a test of tactics and endurance as well as raw power. This could favor riders with a strong all-around skillset.

Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier secure the gold medal in the Elite Men Time Trial (ITT).
The 2024 Eritrea National Road Championships saw Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier secure the gold medal in the Elite Men Time Trial (ITT). Henok Mulubrhan of claimed the silver medal, while Biniam Girmay took home the bronze.

In 2022, the race was decided not by a sprint finish, but rather by a successful breakaway. That year, Merhawi Kudus and Natnael Tesfatsion were able to escape the peloton and stay away until the finish line, securing the top two podium positions through an attritional, non-sprint conclusion to the event.

Last year, an unexpected turn of events occurred in the closing stages of the race. As the prominent contenders appeared to be closely watching one another, Awet Aman and Petros Mengs seized the opportunity to make a decisive move. With approximately 4 kilometers remaining, the two riders managed to break clear of the peloton and sustain their attack until the finish line. Their impressive show of resilience and opportunism culminated in Awet and Petros securing the gold and silver medal positions, respectively.

Two-time Eritrean national champion Merhawi Kudus will be vying for his third title in this year’s competition. Having secured victories in 2018 and 2022, Merhawi has demonstrated his ability to perform at the highest level on the domestic cycling circuit. With his recent strong showings at prestigious international events such as the Tour of Japan and the Tour of Turkey, he has further bolstered his credentials and proven that he has the potential to match the impressive record of three-time Eritrean champion Daniel Teklehaimanot, who claimed the national title in 2011, 2012, and 2016. All eyes will be on Merhawi as he seeks to solidify his place among the true greats of Eritrean cycling by securing a historic third national championship triumph this year.

Two-time African champion Henok Muluberhan, who currently rides for the Astana Qazaqstan team, is also expected to be a prominent contender in today’s race. Henok has demonstrated his versatility and all-around abilities, with impressive performances on flat terrain, in hilly stages, and in sprints. His well-rounded skillset, combined with his tactical acumen and race-reading capabilities, make him a formidable challenger for the national title. As an experienced rider with a proven track record at the international level, Henok will undoubtedly be closely watched by his rivals as he aims to add the Eritrean National Championship to his growing list of accomplishments.

Natnael Tesfatsion 2024 national road championNatnael Tesfatsion is another star who can roar to victory given his fiery competitive spirit and impressive talents. Apart from the other international riders, the local riders are expected to provide a stern challenge to the professional contenders. The local riders have an opportunity to study abroad if they emerge victorious, which has seemingly given them added motivation and determination to upset the more established professional athletes. Therefore, unexpected things could happen for the big favorites from the domestic riders.

The 2024 Eritrean Cycling Championship is set to feature a robust field of participants across various categories. In the elite and under-23 men’s road race categories, there are 129 riders registered to compete. Meanwhile, the elite and under-23 women’s categories have attracted 22 athletes. The junior men’s categories have seen a strong turnout, with 133 riders signed up. Complementing this, the junior women’s categories have 14 participants registered. All in all, 309 riders have put their signature to take part in this year’s Cycling Championships.