The first ever edition
Africa Cup 2018 has officially kicked off today in Asmara. The Africa Cup is a cycling competition organized by the Confederation Africaine de Cyclism (CAC). It is being held for the first time and Eritrea has been granted the special honor of hosting the event. The event will increase the exposure of cycling, gather many fans, offer intense competition, and give followers a picture of Eritrea. Most of all however, the event will help raise the quality of cycling in Africa.
Today, we talk to the Eritrea’s national team coach, Samsom Solomon.
- Africa Cup 2018, the first of its kind. Would you please tell us a little more about it?
1 CAC organized this tournament in order to help develop and improve Africa cycling. It will create more opportunities and competitions for the athletes to grow as professionals. You can only improve by testing yourself, and that’s what this competition will offer.
Asmara was awarded the honor of hosting this event on short notice. It is increasingly recognized that Eritrea is a continental cycling powerhouse. We are also significantly improving and gaining recognition globally. I think that is one of the main reasons we were awarded the privilege of hosting this competition. It is very important that we perform well in the competitions, particularly since we have to collect great scores in order to participate at the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
- This is tournament is taking place during the off-season, does that make it extra challenging?
Well, it would have been nice to include the elite, world class cyclists. However, with this competition being held during the off-season, those cyclists are resting and unavailable. If the cyclists simply jump into this tournament shortly after having been in rest, it may mess up their performances in upcoming competitions. That is why we chose to register our local riders for this tournament.
Our local riders are talented and hungry. They have been active, training and also participating in some competitions. In fact, most of the countries participating in this competition did not bring their top professional riders. That said, however, we should not kid ourselves. All the cyclists are young, passionate, and highly talented. Based on their time trials, we have great confidence that we are going to perform well at the races.
Of course, as hosts, we also have a huge responsibility to put on a good show and do well. We all should also keep in mind that since this event was organized on short notice and quickly, many Africa countries faced different challenges in attending, such as with budgets and planning.
- Could you describe the training program leading up to the tournament?
The training was hectic because we had to prepare on such a short time period. We focused on the four types of races that we are going to participate in: individual and team chronometer; the criterium, which is a one-day bicycle race on a circuit road course; and a road race.
The criterium is going to be introduced for the first time on the Eritrean timetable. It is a race which includes fast and long races with sprints in the middle to collect scores. We have selected eight male and seven female (two in the elite division and five under 23) cyclists to participate in these four exciting competitions.
Having the local riders participate in the competition is positive, in my opinion. It will provide them with a great opportunity to improve and develop. As well, they will increase their exposure and we can showcase their talents to a larger audience. All the competitors should maximize these opportunities and do their best.
- Is the Africa Cup included on the Union Cyclist International (UCI) and CAC calendar?
Yes. It is a good thing that it has started. It is going to provide a great platform for talented and passionate Africa riders to show their talents. The young cyclists work hard and have big dreams, and this competition will play a big role in helping them progress. It is also going to help promote cycling in Africa. We can introduce the sport to more people and gain many fans.
I hope that we are able to use this opportunity and live up to some of the labels we have been given by fans, such as the cycling sensations. We want to put on a great show for everyone and showcase the great talent we have in this country. Good luck to all the riders!