Natnael Berhane won the 9th edition of the 2014 Tropical Amissa Bongo yesterday, becoming the first-ever victory of an African rider competing in the race.
The Eritrean rider came into the final stage in third place – just four seconds behind the race leader Luis Leon Sanchez. However, Berhane managed to pick up an additional six seconds in intermediate sprint points – to wrest the overall victory from Sanchez by the slimmest of margins.
“It’s a real joy. I found it hard to believe that it would be possible to beat a rider like Luis Leon Sanchez, who has such a great palmarès. But in the end, I got there, and that means that I’m starting to make a place for myself with the pros,” Berhane said afterwards.
“I want to thank my teammates who did enormous work for me today,” Berhane said. “I worked a lot, thinking every day about this win. I dedicate this victory to Eritrea. I’m so happy that I don’t know what to say.”
The race attracts 45 nationalities, among them Gabon, France, Burkina Faso, Eritrean, Ivory Coast , Morocco, Rwanda, Belgium, Italy, America, Canada , Russia , Finland and Sweden.
Natnael joins the list of successful athletes to win the race competing against riders accustomed to the Tour de France.
Leading Tropical Amissa Bongo’s list of winners and record holders is Anthony Charteau (three times), followed by Yohann Gene with the most stage victories (6 success), ahead of Belgian Robert Dockx, German and French Jégou Heiny and Martias (2 success each).
Three Africans have won a stage, James Ball (South Africa), Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eritrea) and Natnael Berhane (Eritrea).
The highlight of Berhane’s career came at this year’s Tour of Turkey, where he won a stage and finished second overall behind Mustafa Sayar. However, as a result of Sayar later testing positive for EPO – Berhane was awarded the victory.
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