I was the Ethiopian national road champion in 2016. I will never forget that day.
After 35 kilometres there was a breakaway on a climb. I was in there. Then I attacked and I was solo for 30 kilometres to the finish. It was windy on the flat parts after the climbs to the finish line.
I am a skinny guy but I was not going to let anyone catch me in the wind on the way to the finish. That’s how I got noticed by the UCI World Cycling Centre in South Africa.
South Africa was my first time out of Ethiopia. When I got there, I didn’t speak English. I had to learn quickly from my teammates.
I only owned one set of kit that I was using every day. It was a set of Lampre Merida kit I’d received from Tsgabu Grmay. It was so old and faded by the time I got to South Africa. I had shoes from a local team in Ethiopia. It was two sizes too big for me and it was all I had.
I didn’t care having so little because I had a dream. I HAVE a dream. I want to become a professional cyclist.
I learnt so much in South Africa. Especially about food. Back home, whether I did short or long training, I would eat the same. But in South Africa I learnt how to eat adapting to the training. Also, what kind of training to do.
My first time in Europe was in Italy with the Dimension Data Continental team in 2017. Two days after being there, I started Giro Ciclistico della Valle d’Aosta Mont Blanc, one of the hardest under 23 races in the world. The first stage was so tough. After 1 kilometre we started this steep climb. All of my teammates were dropped but I went into the breakaway.
It was such a hard race and introduction to Europe but I finished 35th on GC. From there I went to GP Capodarco and was 11th, finishing with Tadej Pogacar.
I always believed if I worked hard, it will be easier to become a professional. It was hard for me because in Ethiopia we don’t have any UCI races so it’s hard to show your potential and become a professional so this opportunity to race with Dimension Data, I grabbed it with both hands. Even when things were not so easy.
In 2018 Tour Alsace I started the last stage 13th on GC but got sick. I could not sit in the saddle. The last stage was flat but it was so hard. I wanted to give up. I was so tired, sick, the pace was high with so many corners. But, I remembered my dream is to be a professional cyclist. That’s what was going through my mind. That’s what got me through the race. I managed to still finish in the top 20 on GC.
After my first time in Europe in Giro Ciclistico della Valle d’Aosta Mont Blanc, I returned the following year. This race means so much to me as it’s one of the best under 23 races in the world. To go back there and finish fifth on GC and third on the last stage was something very special to me.
I want to follow in the footsteps of Tsgabu. Cycling has changed Tsgabu’s life because he’s a hard worker and a strong rider. He is an inspiration. I want cycling to change my life but I know if I want it, I need to work hard and get good opportunity.
My home is at 2500m altitude, but I still rent a small place in a village that is 3000m altitude so that I can go there for training camps. I’m working hard to chase my dream.
Permission to publish this story, originally published by www.develo.cc
More recently, I started riding for the ProTouch Continental Team in February 2020 and my first UCI 2.1 Tour back was the Tour du Rwanda. As I have not really raced for the past eight months, I was to play a supporting role for the Team. The Team finished off well with six Top 10 Stage finishes, two Top 20 Stage finishes, one Top 10 GC finish (4th Place overall) and a Top 10 in the overall Mountain Classification.
SOME OF MY NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS FROM 2018 AND 2019
- ETHIOPIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS – UCI N.C – ITT – 6th Place
- TOUR OF TAIYUAN – UCI 2.2 – 28th Overall on General Classification; Stage 1 – 24th Place
- TOUR OF QINGHAI LAKE – UCI – 2.HC – Stage 1 – 11th Place; Stage 8 – 27th Place
- AFRICAN CONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIPS – RR – 12th Place; ITT – 5th Place
- GIRO DELLA FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA – UCI – General Classification – 17th Place
- TOUR ALSACE – UCI 2.2 – Stage 2 – 7th Place Tour Alsace; General Classification – 17th Place
- GIRO CICLIST DELLA VALLE ITALY – UCI 2.U – General Classification – 5th Place; Mountains Classification – 4th Place
- LE TOUR DE SAVOIE MONT BLANC – UCI 2.2 – Stage 1 – 27th Place ; Stage 2 – 25th Place; Best Young Rider Classification – 9th Place; General Classification – 23rd General Classification
- OBEROSTERREICHRNDFAHRT – UCI 2.2 – Stage 1- 25th Place; Stage 3 – 20th Place ; Stage 4 – 19th Place; GeneralClassification – 15th Place; Best Young Rider Classification – 4th Place
This is Part One of My Story – follow me on social media to keep in touch and follow my journey in Africa’s #1 Continental Team. Part Two will include a closer look at my super-fast Devel Project bike, Deda Elementi race wheels and handlebars as well as my customised Pro Apparel Asia cycling kit.