African cycling demonstrates its strength at Continental Championships

The African Continental Championships, which took place in Rwanda from November 9th to 14th, demonstrated the new power of cycling on the continent.

Five years after the inaugural African Championships in Egypt, the 2010 edition held in the Rwandan capital of Kigali welcomed twenty African Nations and saw new countries emerging as leaders. While Morocco and South Africa have always been the strongest contenders, this year two new nations made their mark: Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Victory for Eritrea in team time trial

Eritrea took an early lead in the medals tally, with a refreshing and exciting victory in the team time trial. Urged on by hundreds of spectators, the Eritreans outclassed second-placed South Africa by 2m 19s on the hilly course just outside Kigali.

This was not to be the country’s last appearance on the highest step of the podium: former World Cycling Centre trainee Daniel Teklehaimanot was on an unstoppable winning streak which saw him go on to dominate both the individual time trial and the road race. Not only did he win the U23 category, but also the overall elite classification, earning him a total of five gold medals.

Daniel Teklehaimanot

The men’s road race produced what was probably the highest level of racing ever witnessed on the continent. Rwanda is known as the country of the 1000 hills so it was no surprise that the 144km 12-lap road race was very hilly. The demanding course suited riders from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya, who demonstrated that African cycling is on the move with a new breed of cyclists ready to measure up on the world scene.

After numerous attacks, the first serious breakaway formed after 30km, with two groups riding in front of the main peloton. By the half-way mark, Gasore Hategeka (RWA) and Lagab Azzedine (ALG) had a three-minute lead on their chasers. The Eritreans remained patient and waited for the latter part of the race to make their move. With true professionalism, they set up their attack with one lap to go, allowing Daniel Teklehaimanot to make his move. Only the 2008 African Champion Dan Craven (NAM) and Meron Russom (ERI) were able to respond but they could not succeed in reining him in.

The South Africans however dominated the women’s events, with Lylanie Lauwrens taking gold in both the time trial and the road race.

Olympic Games qualification

Also at stake during the championships were starting slots for the men’s road race at the 2012 Olympic Games: the first two nations (that do not qualify through the UCI Africa Tour by 30th September 2011) automatically earned their nation the right to enter a rider in the London Games. The five remaining qualification spots for Africa will be awarded based on the nations ranking of this season’s UCI Africa Tour, which promises to be one of the most exciting in its history; as the first two nations of the final ranking will qualify respectively 3 and 2 athletes for the Games.

During the closing ceremony, Morocco’s Abdelatif Saadoune was awarded the 2009-2010 UCI Africa Tour winner’s trophy.

Finally, Dr. Wagih Azzam, President of the African Cycling Confederation (CAC), announced next year’s African Continental Championships will take place in Côte d’Ivoire in November.

The majority of the nations have remained in Rwanda for the Tour of Rwanda (class 2.2) which takes place from 17th to 25th November. The competition promises to be exciting, with the African teams being joined by the UCI Continental team from the US, Team Type 1 as well as two European teams from France and Belgium.

UCI Communication Services