After a shattering loss of the yellow jersey just by a second at the 2020 Amisa Bango World Champion in Gabon, the Eritrean national team and the 21-year-old cyclist, Natnael Tesfatsion, prepared well to make up for what they had lost. The Tour Du Rwanda 2020, which was held from 23rd February to 1st March, was a tournament dominated by the Eritrean National Cycling Team. Natnael made headlines as a champion of Tour Du Rwanda 2020, and he also took the honorary jerseys of best African rider and best young rider. Natnael has become the third Eritrean to win the Tour. (Dawit Yemane, another National team member, won the jersey for best sprinter of the 2.1 category.)
The National team arrived in Asmara on Tuesday and was welcomed by the sport federation and fans. Natnael Tesfatsion, Champion of Tour Du Rwanda 2020
- Congratulations Natnael, You did it. Can you please share with us what the race was like?
Thank you, this is something that came through the relentless work of the National team. At the previous competition at the Amisa Bango World Champion in Gabon, we lost the yellow jersey by just one second. It was devastating to everyone. This time the National team prepared well and we planned to take back the yellow jersey. Our team went to the competition with determination and with God’s help we were able to take back the jersey home this time. This honor isn’t mine; I didn’t get it alone. My team mates worked hard and were strong enough to get me to this stage. I am forever grateful to all of them, especially Mekseb Debesai. He worked for our national team; he became an additional force for us. Also, I would like to thank all the fans that have supported us throughout the tournament.
Of course I have competed in that category before. However, I am a sprinter and this was my first mountain biking which I thought could be a bit challenging. Nonetheless, nothing is impossible if you focus and work extra hard. It feels amazing to see all the hard work paying off, and I am happy to bring home something good. It is always hard to keep the jersey, but by following our coach’s instructions and working as a team we got good results, and I am proud.
- Which was the hardest stage of the tournament?
The last stage and the 206 km that I won were challenging.
Thank you, Natnael, congrats again!
Samson Solomon, National Team Coach
- Congrats Samson, please tell our readers what the tournament was like?
Tour Du Rwanda has been a 2.1 category for two years now. It is a competition filled with hills and downhill, making it challenging. All the national teams were strong and competitive and had professional racers who are really good at cycling on mountains. The riders had prepared well for the competition. All the national teams see us as a threat and they focused on us from the beginning. Even when our National team didn’t include professional riders, we were still a threat to them. This time, we got into the tournament only with under- 23 riders, except for one rider who was above 23 years of age.
It is amazing to see those young players compete against the best and professional riders and deliver the yellow jersey. Generally we wanted Natanel and Henok to lead the game but, the other National team players couldn’t let go of Henok and we changed our techniques and Natnael was told to attack and lead. He did exactly as he was told and he was able to get the jersey. However, it was the National team’s efforts that made him keep it. All the players played very strongly without any mistakes to get the jersey. Natnael doesn’t have a gift for mountain biking; he is a sprinter. However, he managed to win the competition with all the efforts he exerted. This is something he achieved through hard work.
I was satisfied to see our players being selected to play at the competition. I knew they would win. What is surprising is that the team was able to bring the yellow jersey with its young riders at 2.1 category competition. We are all proud.