Will 2013 be Ethiopiaâs year? Cycling is predicted to make great strides in this country in the Horn of Africa. The national tour, planned from 20th to 26th April, is now in the UCI calendar, and their best rider of the moment, Tsgabu Grmay, will now ride in the world second division wearing the colours of the Team MTN-Qhubeka. One of the continentâs greatest hopes, and not yet even 22, he made his mark in this early season period by finishing 5th in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, and then 7th and 9th in the major leading stages in the Tour of Langkawi.
Ethiopia almost certainly has other Grmays who are just waiting to be discovered. This is partly due to the culture, as cycling is very popular, but is also partly due to demographic factors, as from 90.8 millions inhabitants there must be some champions waiting to emerge.
To get these athletes into shape, the former American professional Jock Boyer is preparing to launch before April a vast training programme in partnership with the World Cycling Centre (WCC). âWe will apply the same methods as in Rwanda,â he explains. âWe will regularly test cyclists, and gather the best in a centre where we will monitor their progress.â
The project is not completely new in Ethiopia, as three clubs situated in the north of the country provide accommodation and training for about twenty riders each.
Boyer will be working with the Ethiopian Cycling Federation, responsible for passing on its experience at a high level. He was the first American to ride in the Tour de France in 1981, and brought Rwandan cycling to a much higher level in only six years.
The training will be mainly aimed at the Junior riders (16-17). âItâs by noticing early on these young athletes that we can teach them good habits and help them to progress as much as possible,â explains Boyer.
The programme is also aiming to develop womenâs cycling in Ethiopia. This part is sponsored by SoleRebels, the national organic and equitable shoe brand.
The future training centre will be built in the capital, at the Addis Sports Academy. The complex will include in particular a swimming pool, fitness rooms and conference rooms, to train the trainers.
Boyer came to visit from 27th January to 5th February with Kimberly Coats, Team Rwanda's Marketing and Logistics Director. On this occasion, the various partners of the project, at the Ethiopian Federation or at the Sports Academy, settled the final details of the project.
Several benefactors have already sent materials and equipment there. The quality of the equipment was obviously an important factor in Team Rwandaâs success.
The World Cycling Centre has for its part sent cycles to Ethiopia. In the Spring, it will welcome a mechanic from that country for development training, in Aigle in Switzerland.
âThe WCC is very enthusiastic about the Ethiopian development project,â explains FrÃ©dÃ©ric MagnÃ©, Director of the Centre. âIt offers a new complimentary aspect with the work of the World Cycling Centre in South Africa.â
Jean-Pierre Van Zyl, who manages the African satellite of the WCC, agrees: âJock Boyer's work will be positive for Ethiopia. It will be the first step in the athletes' programme, as the best of them could afterwards join the World Cycling Centre in Africa or the World Cycling Centre in Switzerland".
The Ethiopian project constitutes an unprecedented level of synergy for the WCC, in bringing together a National Federation, the Continental Centre based in South Africa, and the WCC based in Switzerland.
After Ethiopia, the unit of scouting and training may be transferred to other African countries.
The project will be then have attained its final goal â to train athletes and technical staff of the country so that cycling at a national level can function independently at a high level. After six years spent in Rwanda, Boyer is preparing quietly for his retirement, because he has â in part â handed the responsibility for Team Rwanda to two former riders: Obed Ruvogera and Rafiki Uwimana.
âWe must teach the various countries how to one day function without us,â concludes Boyer.