Last Sunday morning, people flocked to the ‘Semaetat Avenue’ to be part of the one of the many cycling tournaments that the avenues and streets of Eritrea host often. With a history that goes beyond 75 years and with an established legacy, cycling has become a native sport: involving at the moment countless youth in domestic stages with some 15 others, making history for the country on international stages.
These young riders that put out their hearts on the racing roads have assured a smooth sail for Eritrean cycling.
On that specific chilly and warm, which is by the way the very certain unexplainable speciality of the ‘home weather’; one of the spectators there, was Isabel Fernandes, RIO 2016 Road Cycling Sport Manager.
She spared us some time to share her thoughts, and today we present you the interview we had with Isabel Fernandes.
How did you get in to cycling venture?
It has been almost thirty years now. I started when I was seventeen and once I turned nineteen I officially started translating for foreign teams. I don’t know how I got it to cycling; nobody in family is related to this sport.
Third visit to Eritrea
Yes this is my third visit. I was here in 2013 first, for international tours. I was here last year too. This time I am here for organization.
On Eritrean cycling
The biggest advantage you have here is the fact that cycling is a national sport. People here have passion for the sport. If there is a tournament, big or small it doesn’t matter, everybody is out in the streets cheering the cyclists. Cycling has become part of your culture and the geographical country of your country has given you some know-hows that you adopted and you are using to your benefit.
The growth Eritrean cycling is attaining both on local and international races, is because cycling, here, is widely loved, followed and supported. Along with the government’s support you will definitely even more. Of course, there are some things that need to be worked on. Since cycling is a scientific sport, there are some things that need to be fiddled with, especially on the technical aspects. Other than that, everything is best suited at the moment. It is a rare thing, and especially in Africa,it is a common flaw.
‘Starting’ is the hardest step to fulfill, but here you have done that already and achieved much. So i see no further inconveniences.
On regards to young Eritrean cyclist international accomplishments
In 2008 Eritrea had only one rider on international stage: Daniel Teklehaimanot.
Nevertheless in 2015 the number of Eritrean cyclist riding outside of Eritrea reached 15. And this is not a simple move forward. You can see that both the people’s and government’s support has paid off.
Like I said earlier now that you have started there will hardly any problems for Eritrean cyclists. I can say the established tradition you have here is the main push factors to Eritrean riders on international stages.
Eritrea has a long history of cycling…
Yes it does. Just like Colombia made big triumphs for South America, reaching levels never seen before, Eritrea too is doing the same for Africa. Which Eritrea is the Africa’s Colombia. Eritrea now is exceedingly known to the world for its cycling. I can see how your history is motivating today’s generation of cyclist. There is clearly pride, passion and dignity in your cyclists. In addition they are well aware of the support the people is commending on them, so they work hard and are very dedicated.
Unfortunately all over the world, women’s cycling is not as big as men cycling. Nevertheless, here even though it is not great yet, but is notably improving by the day: in fact not only on domestic tournaments but also on continental tournaments.
It is worth remembering that the national cycling team for Eritrean Women were champions in the All African Games of 2015.
So, so far so good, it is my hope to see more.
At the end…
A message to young Eritrean riders; I want to tell them that they too can make it big. I commend them on their hard work, dedication and the passion they have for what they do. I wish them the best.