Today, we invited a 21 year old cyclist who has turned a passion he got from his n e i g h b o r h o o d friends to a profession. Since he was a teenager , Natnael has taken part in numerous national and i n t e r n a t i o n a l competitions representing his team and his country. “Why do we get scared of trying out anything? Whatever it is you want to do, you just have to do it with discipline and confidence,” Natnael says. That’s the number one motto he follows to success.
After coming back from the Amisa Bango Tour 2020 at Gabon where the Eritrean National team made headlines, Natnael wore the yellow and white jersey from the second stage to the last until he lost the yellow one with only just one second difference. He is here with us to talk about his profession and the races he has taken part in. Natnael is now a member of the NTT Continental Cycling Team of South Africa based in Italy.
- Welcome to our page, Natnael. How did you get into Cycling at the beginning?
Before I knew anything about cycling, I was passionate about soccer. I was always interested in football and played a lot. However, my neighborhood friends who were cyclists at the time told me that I could start biking with them and took me to the place where they trained. I was excited to see them all train together, which was an inspiration for me. Besides my friends, it was my father who motivated me to get involved in cycling race. My family, including my aunty who lives abroad, was like a big team for me. They would get me anything that I needed regarding cycling. My father used to take me to races so that I would learn lessons from the cyclists. Not only did he want me to take lessons but he also told me that there are accidents where I could be seriously injured. I remember after I started cycling, I had a terrible accident around Menguda, Southern region, where I lost my teeth, ruined my face and broke my arm. My dad was the one that was motivating me to get back to biking after my mom took away my bike. I was just 14 years of age and I was determined to be a professional cyclist and get into races. Nonetheless, the accident influenced my performances so much that I was more cautious and stopped doing sprints.
- Joining cycling teams and how it shaped you as an athlete?
Warsay cycling team was a first division team which I joined for the first time. Joining the club has shaped me to become the cyclist that I am today. The best part is I only had one coach from the beginning until I joined the international cycling club. Coach Aklilu Haile, AKA “Bahri,” is like a second father to me. He is also the one who made the club grow better and get to the 3rd division. I would like to thank him for guiding me and helping me get to where I am today. After my time with Warsay cycling team, I was transferred to Eri-tel Cycling Team, in the 2nd division, where I had my three international games. After Eri-tel, in 2019, I signed with Dimension Data Continental Team of South Africa, which is now going by the name of NTT Continental Cycling team. I am also a member of the Eritrean National Cycling Team and play in international tournaments representing my country.
- What can you tell us about your experiences taking part at International tournaments?
My first international race was with my team Eri-tel; it was in Indonesia in 2018. It was one of the biggest races, a 2.1 category. At the first stage of the competition I finished 18th but on the next stage, the 202 km race, I managed to finish 7th which was motivating. As it was my first time and I didn’t have any prior experience in international games, the competition was much harder for me. After Indonesia, we went to take part at the Tour de Taihu Lake, in china, where I finished 6th at the first stage. The competition had eight stages, and twice I finished in the 4th place and another time I made it to the podium in the 3rd place.
Competitors at the tournament were professional racers who compete at big competitions I used to see only on TV, and to compete against them and score that kind of result was something that made me believe that I could actually be good at what I am doing. Also, after an African cup competition in Asmara, I went to Cameroon with the Eritrean National team in January 2019 and won the green jersey. Besides, after signing with Dimension Data, I had numerous competitions in and outside Italy. Those competitions run for hundreds of kilometers, which were challenging at first. Now, all is good, and I have scored time that made me get in the top ten.
- The titles you have gained so far?
I was the champion of Eritrea 2019 under 23. In addition to making it to the podium with the 1st rank in the second stage, I also wore the yellow and white jerseys at the Amisa Bango Tour 2020. Again, I had the green jersey in Cameroun in 2019.
National team’s previous Amisa Bango Tour 2020 at Gabon…
It was a competition that can’t be forgotten. Seven jerseys were worn by us on the second stage, which was unbelievable. We were the ones who were leading the whole competition. I wore the yellow jersey from the second stage and lost it with just one second at the end. That broke every fan’s heart but no one can be heartbroken as much as me.
Now that we are planning to participate at the Tour of Rwanda, our team just started training on Monday. There isn’t any doubt that we are going to do well. We are going to take back our yellow jersey and keep it this time.
- Anything at last, Natnael?
I would like to thank my Coach, my parents, my aunt Milete Oqbit, and all the great Eritrean cyclists in Italy. Especially Natnael Brhane, he has been there for me for my entire journey. Nonetheless it is because of all of them that I am here, and I am forever grateful. Also, to all my fans and supporters, let’s keep going and we will make it.
Winning a stage in the 2020 Amisa Bango Tour