The 2012 African Continental Cycling Championships drew to a close on Sunday with the victory of Natnael Berhane in the menâs road race through Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. At the end of the 170 kilometres, the Eritrean rider out-sprinted his breakaway partner, South Africaâs Jay Thompson, while his compatriot Frekalsi Debesay took third place. At the same time, he took the title in the Under-23 category.
Eritrea had already taken honours in the leading race last year with Berhane, and the year before with Daniel Teklehaimanot who, in 2012, won the individual time trial. Also victorious in the team time trial, the East-African country is the clear winner of the 2012 Continental Championships.
"This year, the level was particularly high among the 18 nations which took part to the races", observes Jean-Pierre Van Zyl, UCI AfricaTour Adviser and technical delegate for the championships.
"In several events the speed average was impressive and in the men's road race we saw a compact peloton of thirty riders together once the selection was made. It means there were not only two or three nations fighting together but a wide range of countries which have reached a very interesting level."
This fact was reflected in the host country Burkina Fasoâs bronze medal in the menâs junior road race with Karim Bonkoungou, and its fourth in the team time trial behind Eritrea, Tunisia and Algeria.
The competitions were particularly difficult due to the high temperatures and the participation of professional riders such as Teklehaimanot (Orica-GreenEdge) and the Tunisian RafaÃ¢ Chtioui (Team Europcar).
Member of Team MTN-Qhubeka, the Ethiopian Tsgabu Grmay, 21, was âthe revelation of the 2012 championships,â according to Van Zyl. He missed out on victory in the individual time trial by only three seconds after leading all the intermediate times, clocking the same speed as the Eritreans in the team time trial.
Algeriaâs Abderrahmane Bechlagheme, winning both the juniorâs road race and the individual time trial, is the other revelation of the week.
Other young talents also emerged during the racing, which was closely monitored by Alejandro Gonzalez-Tablas, World Cycling Centre coach and in charge of detection for road teams in 2013.
In the womenâs competitions South African Asleigh Moolman captured the road race and the time trial ahead of her compatriot An-Lin Pretorius.