The Bicycle Horn of Africa: ERITREA

History and colonialism brought the sport to this African country, but geography, climate and culture helped Eritreans to embrace and excel at it – and now its athletes are riding on to global dominance

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The Bicycle Horn of Africa: How cycling became a part of Eritrea’s national identity

It’s racing day in Asmara, and the whole city has come out to watch: lining the streets, packing the grandstands, expertly studying the cyclists as they whoosh past, wildly cheering the front-running Eritreans and sportingly encouraging the lagging Nigerians.

This is the launch of the Africa Cup, a new cycling championship, but it’s nothing at all unusual here. Cycling races are held almost every weekend in Eritrea. Police block cars from the streets and whip any disorderly youths who cross the barriers, but for most people the excitement outweighs the inconvenience.

Cycling is the biggest sport in Eritrea, and its cyclists are the best in Africa – and increasingly among the best in the world. It’s an odd byproduct of Eritrea’s unique history, geography and culture.

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