More New African Cycling Legends at the Tour of Gabon

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Tour of Gabon Legends. If it was not for the Eritreans, no other black African has ever won a stage in the history of the Tour.
Tour of Gabon Legends. If it was not for the Eritreans, no other black African rider could have won a stage in the history of the Tour.

By Alula Abraha,

Preliminary result has shown that another African rider from Rwanda has managed a break-through winning Stage-5 today.

Bonaventure Uwizeyimana of Rwanda has made history by becoming the fourth African to win the only first catagory race held in the continent (apart from the continental championship that has been completely dominated by Eritrean athletes for the last four years).

He’s now joined legends Daniel Teklehaimanot (stage-4 in 2011), Natnael Berhane (stage-6 in 2011) and Freqalsi Debesay (stage-4 in 2014).

With 60km left to the finish line, Uwizeyimana was amongst 10 riders that included Meron Teshome, breaking away from the main peloton. But with only 8km to go and after the 10 break away groups worked their socks off to gain up to 6 minutes lead over of the peloton, Uwizeyimana of Rwanda and Lahsaini of Morocco made an escape from the group of 8 that consists of Meron Teshome. But Meron’s group had run out of time in their last gasp aggressive chasing to reel the escapees back.

Congratulations Uwizeyimana and Rwanda for a marvelous achievement and a marvelous result for Meron Teshome who was in Sawa doing his national service up until last year. A very tough rider and it won’t be long before we see a true champion in him as the best of him is yet to come sooner or later.

It was remembered that almost this time 24 hours ago (yesterday), similar preliminary result for the longest and hardest 190km stage-4 race has seen an Eritrean household hero crossing the winning line in triumph almost effortlessly. The experienced endurance rider, Feqalsi Debesay, has rode 190Km stage-4 race course to victory to join his great Eritrean compatriots, Daniel and Natnael, who also had emphatically won stages 4 and stage 6 of the same tour in 2011, respectively.

Yesterday, Freqalsi had gained nearly a massive 7 minutes off the main peloton that has all the main GC contenders in it including Natnael and Metkel.

Freqalsi had also amassed the maximum 20 points and awarded 10 seconds bonus for the stage win. A marvelous achievement but highly doubt if that is ever enough to help recover from the huge loss of time incurred in the 1st stage that resulted after he get caught in a rather slow moving peloton. But, nothing can be taken away from Freqalsi as he is still proven to be very capable of beating anybody at any moment in time. Just as the saying goes that ‘when the going gets tough….the tough gets going‘, perfectly describes this great professional athlete. No doubt that he’ll take home the stage winner’s jersey and a great memory for his fans everywhere in the world.

For the rest of our riders, the race was so tactical that almost no change was seen in the general classification (GC) for the top 10 riders despite all of them finishing nearly 7 minutes behind the stage Winner, Freqalsi Debesay.

They seem to keep an eye on each other and not allowing any of the GC contenders to get away from their sights. As for Metkel Eyob (for team Eritrea), who is only 3 mins behind in the overall GC, the only chance is to sneak past unnoticed by the main GC contenders while the main ones keep an eye on each other. That way, Metkel can gain significant time like Freqalsi did yesterday and sit comfortably clear in the most important GC lead. But as for Natnael (for Europcar), his only chance seems to be either a clean win and /or a stage win that could come with a 10 seconds bonus which is just enough to win him the championship. But with all three of them riding for different teams (Metkel with Team Eritrea, Freqalsi for MTN Qhubeka and Natnael for Europcar), the team with the better team-tactic will see their target man truimph in this chess-like race of the road. Metkel as the lead man for Team-Eritrea, Natnael for Team Europcar and Gerdemann for Freqalsi’s team MTN Qhubeka, there is only two more races left to hold on their nerves.

It’s sad that such a great group of Eritrean talents had to work for their own respective teams to see someone else win it but that is the nature of professionalism. Being a pro means, you put all efforts into your team even if it might hurt the result of one’s national team.

As far as the psychological advantage is concerned, Natnael will have the edge on the last day of the race on Sunday as he knows that he had won that same 130km race course (Owendo-Libreville) in 2011. I’m sure he still has a vivid memory of the course race and the experience, the fact that his mental strength was proved beyond doubt in last year’s Heute Catagory Queen’s stage of the Presidential tour of Turkey, he’ll certainly be pumped up for on Sunday, the last decider day. But again, Metkel, as a close podium finisher and King of mountain in the last tour of Rwanda will also be up for it and he will have to depend on the hard work of his compatriots in Tesfom, Amanuel, Kindishih, Meron Amanuel and Meron Teshome.

Kindish’s elder brother, Freqalsi racing for MTN, is not to be discounted in this chess game as he is a great team player that can do a damage to anyone’s ambition as much as he can work along his teammate to get their lead target-man, Linus Gerdemann of Germany.

Mind you, there are two European World tour pro teams in this GC race along with Natnael’s Europcar team in 3rd place. Europcar has promoted from continental pro team to a World tour pro team this year and Natnael has become the second Eritrean to be come the elite world tour rider after Daniel Teklehaimanot.

In the 9 years history of La Tropicale Amissa Bongo tour of Gabon, Daniel and Natnael has broken the trend of the Amissa Bongo tour that has so far been dominated by the multi-million pro riders from Europe. Daniel and Natnael have also managed to go into their own European territories and come back with a great victory in Spain as well as the tough presidential tour of Turkey, respectively. Even The young Merhawi Kudus in his first season has caused an earth quake in Europe winning stages in Italy and France. Freqalsi has now joined them up in winning a 2:1 (first category) stage.

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