Non traditional cycling nations enrich 2018 UCI Road World Championships

Last updated on 28.09.2018

Cyclists from around the world have come to Innsbruck-Tirol with the aim of performing to their maximum potential in order to make their home country proud. They include riders from some non traditional cycling nations, whose participation in the event undoubtedly enriches the World Championships.

From a sporting point of view it has been the teams from Europe and North America who have so far dominated the 2018 UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck-Tirol. And yet, there are many riders in Austria who may not be among the favourites for a medal but have nevertheless shown an impressive combination of passion, commitment and hard work to get there. Athletes from Eritrea, Ruanda, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Syria, Chile, Morocco, the British Virgin Islands and Trinidad und Tobago are among those enjoying the Tirolean hospitality and keen to give 100% for their country when they line up at the start.

Team Ruanda surrounded by fans

Among those pushing hard is Jean Eric Habimana from Ruanda, who competed in the Men Junior Individual Time Trial at this year’s World Championships and finished 49th. Habimana and his teammate Renus Byiza Uhiriwe were surrounded by fans keen to get their autographs. Whoever you talk to – fans, riders or officials from some of the non traditional cycling countries competing at the World Championships – everyone is keen to emphasise the warm, friendly welcome they have been given Tirol. Polite people, beautiful mountains, excellent food and clean air are some of the positive aspects most frequently mentioned.

Friendships across borders: Team Eritrea with honorary member from Tirol

Eritrea, a country of five million people on the Horn of Africa, has brought a team of eleven riders to the 2018 UCI Road World Championship in Innsbruck-Tirol. They are staying at the Gassnerwirt in Radfeld. Sebastian Haberl, the owner of the guesthouse, has been named an honorary member of Team Eritrea in recognition of the support he has given the delegation since they arrived, ranging from guided tours of the village to hikes into the mountains. Misghina Haile, secretary general of the Eritrea National Cycling Team, is enormously grateful to Haberl for his help. “In Eritrea we also have a lot of mountains, but they are not as green as they are here in Tirol,” he says with a smile. Among those in his team is the 20-year-old Awet Habtom, who attracted plenty of attention last year with his performance in the U23 Men’s Road Race in Bergen, Norway. He led the peloton for the first 150 of the 191 kilometres and broke away off the front on several occasions. Although his performance was ultimately not rewarded with a medal, teams from around the world were seriously impressed.

Afghanistan: From inline skates to road bike

Mojtaba Hajizadeh, 17, was forced to flee his home country of Afghanistan in 2015 and first went to Vienna, before moving to Munich and then settling in Saxony in the east of Germany, where his talent on the bike was recognised by the local cycling club SV Remse Radsport. The young man speaks good German, attends the local school and would one day like to become a car mechanic. Back in Afghanistan he spent a lot of his time on inline skates. “That is a sport which uses the same muscles as cycling,” explains Thomas Gessner, chairman of  SV Remse Radsport in Saxony. Although he has only been training on the bike for two and a half years, Hajizadeh is the only athlete representing Afghanistan at this year’s World Championships.