By: Pierre Carrey

Kigali, Rwanda – Rising Eritrean star Daniel Teklehaimanot completed a hat-trick at the 2010 African Continental Championships with victory in the road race in Kigali, Rwanda. Together with the individual and team time trials, he has now won three races – and five African Champion’s jerseys, including the U23 titles. Last but not least, he secured Eritrea’s qualification for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. His country dominated the road race with Meron Russom finishing second, and five riders finishing in the top 10.

Two baroudeurs undertook a 55km breakaway early on: Algerian Abdelmalek Madani and local young talent Gasore Hategeka, who was forced to give his bike to his leader Adrian Niyonshuti when he broke his chain with four laps to go. The Rwandan team pleased the massive crowd on the streets of the capital through their attacking riding, but Niyonshuti was ultimately disappointed to finish eight.

The 144km race, perfect for climbers and puncheurs, exploded at the 106km mark when a 12-rider group went clear containing five Eritreans (Daniel Teklehaimanot, Meron Russom, Araya Medhin Dawit Haile, Tesfai Teklit, Teweldemedhin Natnel Berhane) and the main favourites: Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (South Africa), Dan Craven (Namibia), Adil Jelloul (Marocco), Adrien Nyonshuti (Rwanda), Estifanos Gebresilassie and Solomon Bittew Shiferaw (Ethiopia) and Azzedine Lagab (Algeria).

With one lap to go, Teklehaimanot launched an attack and opened up an advantage that reached 28 seconds by the finish. “I told the other riders, ‘You can’t let him go’ but we all were tired and there were so many Eritrean riders in the group that I decided myself to focus on second place in order to qualify for the Olympics,” Craven said.

The 2009 African Continental Champion finished third in the race, beaten in the sprint by a Teklehaimanot’s team-mate, Russom, who continued his improvement in the event. He finished 11th in 2007 and 4th in 2008, although he didn’t start last year as his national tour took place at the same time as the Continental Championships.

Teklehaimanot received an intense ovation from the public. “I waited until the last part of the race to go in front, because some nations like Morocco or South Africa were watching me closely,” he said. “This win makes me very happy and I’m proud to help my country qualify for the Olympics.”

Because of a misunderstanding, Teklehaimanot went to Beijing in 2008 but ultimately didn’t ride as Erythrea was not allowed to participate. His success in the 2010 African Continental Championships underlines he’s one of the top athletes on the continent. Despite six crashes at the end of the season, he finished in 16th place at the Tour of Piedmont as a stagiaire for Cervélo Test Team.

The 22-year-old Teklehaimanot is still looking for a professional contract next year. His last race of the season will be the Tour of Rwanda, a UCI 2.2 event, from November 17-25.

Source: CyclingNews.com

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