“Why do people tell me I only have few years to pedal; I am going to do it when I am married, and after I have kids.”
It’s not Q&A’s first time to talk to this passionate and dedicated young Eritrean cyclist. Mossana Debesai was featured here where she talked about her childhood and passion for biking. Over the years, she has been unceasingly victorious winning numerous titles such as Eritrea’s champion and champion of Africa. With great determination, this young cyclist realized her long- time dream of becoming a professional cyclist when she signed with the Servetto-Stradalli Cycle. Mossana is a strong willed Eritrean who believes in women empowerment.
Q&A has invited Mossana again, this time to talk about her experiences of becoming a professional cyclist and her recent achievement of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to become the first Eritrean female cyclist to ever participate at such an event.
- Welcome back champ; how was the Champion of Africa 2019?
As it was a race that provided the chance to qualify for the Olympics, many of the contenders came there with a focus and a specific goal. Even cyclists who specialize in other fields worked hard in winning the road race to make themselves Olympians. This made the competition tense. Although we were informed that the champion of Africa had the chance to qualify for the Olympics, I don’t believe we had prepared well enough. Our training focused on field race. That is why we weren’t able to do as well as we hoped for. I was disappointed when I lost the chronometer; it meant a lot to me as I have many chronometer tittles. We weren’t able to win the chronometer races as individuals and as a team. Cycling doesn’t only take material preparation. The mental state is also very important and for that reason I was stressed. However, the best thing about losing is that you level up your determination to win. I came back as the champion of Africa 2019 and the first Eritrean female cyclist to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 representing my country.
- Congratulations, let’s rewind back a little. Any updates after your last interview with us, Mossana?
I have taken part in many competitions over the years. I was the first Eritrean female cyclist to get a gold medal in all African games in 2015. I was also the Eritrean champion. The year 2015 was exciting as I received many awards. Nonetheless, 2016 wasn’t as I had hoped for since there were so many competitions. Nevertheless, I was the chronometer champion of Eritrea.
Fortunately, I was one of the cyclists who were selected to go to Ruanda for courses and games with professional cyclists. Again, I participated at the world championship in 2016. In addition, at the Champion of Africa 2017, I won 2nd place chronometer individual race and 1st place as a team. I came in 7th rank on the road race. Also, becoming the Eritrean champion along with my two brothers, Mekseb Debesay from the upper level and my younger brother, Yakob Debesay, from the junior level at the chronometer race was very exciting.
The year 2018 started great as I won the champion of Africa tittle at an individual chronometer race. I also won 3rd place at road race 3. It was because of this specific success that I was able to sign with a professional world tour cycling team in Italy, Servetto- Stradalli, which is now called Servetto-Pomita Bertrami TSA.
- Becoming a professional cyclist, how did that make you feel?
It was my dream being realized. I didn’t even have a good CV as most of the professional cycling teams would require. They require much more than having few titles; they require competitions that take days of tours. Those kinds of contests aren’t popular here. But I was so lucky that my team signed me as a chronometer specialist based on my records.
There were challenges; I won’t lie. As we didn’t have much of an experience here, it was hard for me to cope with the professionals in Europe. I have always been proud of myself and what I have accomplished here before. I considered myself a professional here. But in Europe I was just like a beginner. The races I got into were tough and challenging. I was used to racing among 10- 15 contenders and there I was competing against 150 racers on the road. I started by slipping off my bike, and I caused many things to my team. In addition to my skin, my lack of experience caused me to be looked down by the other professional cyclists. By the way I would like to thank my coach, Dario Rossino, for all the support he has extended to me. My first tour was for three days, one day for chronometer race and two days road race. My coach didn’t think t I was going to finish it. But then again my brother encouraged me to finish it so that I could have a good score to participate in world championships. And I did, which was a total surprise to my coach. I also competed at the world tour in China where I got in 43rd rank, my best rank so far. Now, I am doing better and my dedication to cycling has been acknowledged by the captain of my team. She constantly tells me she wants to sign other Eritrean cyclists if they have the same passion for cycling as mine. I have shown her portfolios of many passionate cyclists whom I hope could get the same chance as I did.
- The First Eritrean female cyclist to compete at the Olympics…
My older brother and I are going to participate at the Olympics, which makes it more thrilling and it is all we could talk about. It is a decisive competition time in our lives. In 2016, just before World Champion in Qatar, the Olympia channel came here to interview our family. They asked me what my plans were and I told them that I want to join a team and that I also have a dream to become the first Eritrean female cyclist to be at the Olympics. Many of my fans have that video and showed me at Bahrdar when I won the Champion of Africa title. This is my dream and I am fortunate to see it happening. Of course it is going to require hard work, for which I am going to prepare thoroughly and train well.
- Five cyclists out of the Debesai family, how does that affect you?
It is our grandma who started the cycling initiative. She bought my brothers the first bike. And she is our number one support. Having a professional cyclist has its benefits. We share everything, the mistakes and our successes. My brothers guide me and advise me on the things I should and shouldn’t do as a cyclist. It is just amazing.
- Anything you want to say at last?
Female cycling hasn’t advanced yet. We have the potentials; however, more competitions should be organized for female cycling. We need to have more campaigns to motivate young female Eritreans to get into sports and work hard on it. The cycling federation should work hard to provide unconditional support to the female cyclists to upgrade their skills and capacities.
Also, as females, we should learn to have self-confidence. But to have that kind of confidence, a girl should be educated. We are strong and we can do anything we put our minds to. I remember whenever my father saw me cry over something, he used to tell me that only weak girls cry. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t cry, but we should ask ourselves for what reason we are shedding our tears. Guys try to underestimate us, which angers me the most.
People tell me that I have few years left to pedal and that soon I would get married and get off my bike. I have seen many older women who are leading their lives and still biking in other countries. Our community should support us in any way we seek support. Girls should understand their potential and follow their dreams. We can work hard and raise a family.