Eritrean Professional Cyclist thinks of Sports as a medium for friendship amongst people. He makes his last experience of Tour Rwanda 2019 an instance.
Young Eritrean cycling phenomenon, Merhawi Kudus, is our guest today. In games, he is known for his boldness and for taking risks. He is one that has made his Eritrean and international fans proud. Now riding for one of the world’s most prominent teams, Astana, Merhawi has once again exhibited an exceptional performance in Tour Rwanda 2019, keeping his jersey from stage two to the very last. He shares his experience at that tournament with Q&A.
-What’s new with you?
It is an eventful year so far as there are many things happening for me this year. I am now riding with one of the biggest cycling teams ever. I am riding with Astana. In January we had a training camp in Italia. Later, I took part in Tour of Valencia and the latest one is the recent tour, that of Rwanda where, I am glad to say, my team showed an outstanding performance.
-What about now? You have been training in Eritrea for a while.
Yes I have. I am preparing for the coming tours on my schedule putting into consideration, of course, the African Championships playing the Eritrean National Team.
-What made you decide to accept Astana’s offer despite the fact that you rode for Dimension Data for long?
It is a high class team. It is a world tour team. Even though Dimension Data itself is a praiseworthy team, also a team in which I grew professionally, I decided to sign with Astana as my contract was ending.
-Astana is one of the most prominent teams in the game. How do you feel about being part of it?
I love challenging myself and trying new things. So when I joined the team I felt thrilled. Many big names in the sport ride for the team and moreover the team’s most common techniques happen to match my strengths. Having started cycling at a young age I feel I have accomplished at every step as I go forward. It is a matter of professionalism.
-During the last tour of your team, which you led as its captain, you made headlines in many sports news platforms. Tell us about it please.
The 2.1 tour of Rwanda was the first African game in a long while for my team, and I was the only African there. I was honestly pleased to take part in an African game. Also, I felt a bit of a pressure at first as I served as the captain for my team. But the overall track of the race was reassuring as it had several climbs and that for me is a plus. That being said, the game was thrilling and somewhat challenging too.
-You got your yellow jersey on stage two of Tour Rwanda and performed so well at the following stage. You also managed to keep your jersey till the last stage. What can you tell us about it?
I got the yellow jersey in stage two of the game. It covered 120 kilometers. The last three kilometers were challenging and the last one and a half kilometer was a climb, which worked to my favor as I attacked almost alone and got the stage win. I kept my jersey throughout the game. Moving on to the third stage, we had some 213 kilometers to cover and it was the hardest of the game holding 4000 climbs. That is twice the Gahtelay-Asmara ride. I attacked at seventy kilometers away from the finishing line and got the stage win. Since I encountered an accident in stage seven I lost some ten seconds. For that reason I felt more pressure in the following stage. I had to excel in my performance if I was to keep my jersey as I got behind by seven seconds. But fortunately for me, my team was a big support. My team mates are so professional we rode together and achieved good results.
-You just mentioned the Eritrean National Team, mostly composed of your juniors. What do you think of them?
They are great! I respect them. As you correctly say, most of them are juniors except for Mekseb who is a professional rider and also my team mate when I was in Dimension Data. The National Team got two stage wins and more. Therefore, they have displayed a commendable performance. I was proud of them and I am happy for their victories. Needless to say they are talented but talent alone isn’t enough. So they need to be supported. It would be rewarding if they can be put into an academy. Of course, they also need to be challenged. I wish them to play in European games.
-You have a big crowd of fans worldwide; you also enjoy a big fan base of Eritreans. I noticed that the last game you took part in got you more fans from Rwanda. Did you notice it?
Of course I did. In fact, let me pass my heartfelt thanks to the people of Rwanda. They really are something. They have shown me love and support, and that was beyond my expectation. They made my stay in Rwanda more enjoyable. That’s the thing about sports, cycling in my case; it is a great way for making new friendships amongst people.
-You are only few days away from the African Champs to be held in Ethiopia. What do you have to say?
I am excited about riding along the National Team. I enjoy their company.
-Thank you for your time, Merhawi. And best of luck throughout the year!