Hidden away in North East Africa – ‘The Horn’ – bordering Ethiopia and Sudan is a little known country called Eritrea, officially ‘The State of Eritrea.’ At 118,000 square kilometres it’s around half the size of the United Kingdom; with a population similar to that of Scotland at an estimated five million. It’s better known for producing athletes of the running variety, but one ambitious, young sportsman is breaking the trend. Daniel Teklehaimanot, born in Eritrea in November 1988, is our man.
He first started making a name for himself when he took the U23 African National Time Trial Championships in 2008.
Following this he was contacted by the UCI World Cycling Centre to offer him the opportunity to take his racing to the next level.
At the same time he was also offered a place at Amore & Vita professional continental team as a stagiaire.
His national federation interfered with the latter and he moved to the UCI Centre at Aigle, Switzerland in May the following year.
This first season based in Europe served as a break-through year for the Eritrean.
His best result of the season was an excellent 6th place at the Tour de L’Avenir, week long stage race in France.
He was already mixing it amongst riders who had already secured their places in the ProTour ranks for the following season.
He stayed with the Swiss based unit through 2010 where he once again made a big impression on his rivals.
His slight, climbers physique allowed him to excel as the road turned upwards and resulted in several wins including a big win at the Coupe des Nations in Québéc, Canada.
This result, amongst others, caught the eye of the directors at the professional outfit Cervelo Test Team who offered him a spot as a stagiere on their team in the summer of 2010.
However, the plug was pulled on the Cervelo connection with the news that Cervelo test Team was no more – the big stars joining Garmin but the stagiaires left to their own devices.
He recently proved how much he has learnt and progressed over the season and from racing with the world’s best by taking full honours in the African Continental Championships.
Teklehaimanot came home with gold in not only the U23 time trial; but the senior time trial title, both team time trial titles and both U23 and senior road titles.
To put it simply, he won everything there was on offer.
Carrying that form forward, the Eritrean then won the Tour of Rwanda – a tough race in ‘the land of one thousand hills,’ where the opposition including US Team Type 1 which has just made the jump from Continental to Pro Continental.
Team Type 1 main man Phil Southerland was mightily impressed by Teklehaimanot’s performance and despite his roster being complete for 2011 is currently trying to find the cash – and UCI co-operation – to sign the Eritrean.
Whatever the outcome, Daniel Teklehaimanot is definitely a rider who we’re likely to hear a lot more of in the coming years.