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Yohana Dawit: First Female to Represent Eritrea In Professional Cycling

Eritrean cyclist Yohana Dawit finished ninth place at the first stage of the Green Mountain Race in Vermont, USA. Her remarkable race on September 2 marks a significant milestone in her career- as the first Eritrean female cyclist competing for an American cycling team (Amy D.Foundation race team).

The 24 year old Eritrean is competing as a guest rider for Amy D.Foundation race team and has been since mid-July in intensive training in the US. “Yohanna gets 9th on her first race in the US stunning,” Yohana’s home club (Team Africa Rising), the first all- African Women’s UCI team, said.

The Amy D. race team, named after American rider Amy Alison Dombroski, who tragically passed while training abroad in Belgium in 2013, is a development racing program that offers women the chance to compete at elite level.

The cycling program creates opportunities for women by organizing teams with open rosters that may vary from event-to-event. It tries to pair up-and-coming athletes, like Dawit, with seasoned veterans.

The Green Mountain Stage Race is a four day stage race in the heart of the Green Mountains of Vermont and runs from September 2 to September 5.

The Team Africa rising on an issue it released on August 10 also noted the lining-up of Yohana Dawit with the team as follows:

We are pleased to announce a guest rider appearance at the Green Mountain stage race in Vermont September 2nd-5th, thanks to the Amy D.Foundation race team.
A key element of the team Africa Rising program is the identification, development and promotion of women’s cycling in Africa. For the past month, the coaches at our HQ, the Africa Rising Cycling Center9ARCC), home to the national cycling team of Rwanda, have been working with female cyclists from across East Africa for a month-long, high-attitude training camp.

Fourteen women from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Rwanda have taken part in an intensive training schedule to improve every aspect of their cycling skills, training, diet and preparation.
Yohana Dawit, a 24-year-old Eritrean, is one of the exciting members of this rising tide of female cycling talent. She has been in intensive training with us since mid-July and won the recent ‘Race for Culture Rwandan Cycling Cup’ on July in Rwanda.

Due to the publicity of this high profile victory, Kimberly Coats (the Women’s Program’s Sporting Director) spoke with Michael Engleman of the Mission Sports Group in the US who was keen to connect Team Africa Rising with the US racing scene. They agreed on a guest rider position for Yohanna at the famous Green Mountain Stage Race in September, riding for the Amy D.Foundation race team.

When Dan Dombroski, President and Founder of Amy D.Foundation heard about Yohana he explained:

“It’s wonderful to see so much excitement around these African Cyclists; we were moved by the potential to help, as it all aligns so well with developments we try to promote through Amy D.Foundatio programming.

The invitation of Yohana was a function of circumstances including conversations with Amy D.Foundation board of directors and the Team Africa rising staff. Ultimately, our understanding is that Eritrea is supportive of their female cyclists, and so it seemed fitting to invite the Eritrean National Champion.”

This race is a historical marker for our African women’s cycling program. Yohana will become the first female Eritrean cyclist to race at the professional level in the United States.

The Green Mountain Stage Race is renowned for launching the careers of global superstars in our sport like Evelyn Stevens, currently representing Team USA in Rio.

“Over its 17 year history, the Green Mountain Stage Race has played host to many up and coming racers who have gone to fins success on the world stage as both professionals and Olympians. We are very excited to welcome Yohana as she represents the vanguard of African women in bicycle racing,” said Race Director Gary Kessler.

Yohana was thrilled to learn she would be racing in the US:

“This is my dream, to be a professional cyclist. I am very happy and I want to show all women in sport in my country and Africa that they can reach their goals no matter how difficult.”

After successfully building a strong Rwandan men’s national team, which now boasts five Rwandan riders on European professional teams, and with a reputation that has spread across world cycling, Team Africa Rising is turning its attention in a major way to African Women’s cycling.

For female cyclist, the current obstacles in the sport include lack of training, equipment, funding, international races on the continent and the one of the most significant barriers, cultural stigma. Although the odds are stacked against them, they have ridden anyway and are every bit as talented as the men if not more so. The level and potential of talent is truly world-class.

Team Africa Rising Women’s program will be the catalyst of change for female cyclist in Africa. Kimberly Coats explains: “This is exactly the breakthrough we need. We are grateful to the team at Amy D.Foundation and look forward to making our presence known to the world of women’s cycling. This is just the first step in an ongoing and exciting process to launch a full team in the near future.

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