By Dawit Tolesa
MTN-Qhubeka made history last year by becoming the first African-registered team to participate in the Tour de France – with Daniel Teklehaimanot and Merhawi Kudus the first Eritreans to compete – and this year will see a further milestone in the progress of African cycling as Tsgabu Grmay lines up as the Tour’s first ever Ethiopian.
Much was made of South African Louis Meintjes’ decision to swap MTN (now Dimension Data) for the Italian Lampre-Merida team at the end of last season, but it was a move Tsgabu – a product of the UCI’s World Cycling Centre – had made 12 months previously. As he prepares to make history, he couldn’t be happier with his career trajectory.
“I am so so so happy. I still I can’t believe that I am going to do the Tour!” he said with his enthusiasm shining through a recent team press release.
“It was very long way coming from Ethiopia to race the Tour de France: few years ago, when you were thinking about coming from Ethiopia and participating in the Tour de France, it was something impossible for me and for all Ethiopian people. But now this thing is going to change… I am going to show that is possible and I am really really happy and proud.”
Tsgabu grew up at over 2,000 meters altitude and is a natural climber. He recently rode the Critérium du Dauphiné, where he was an attacking presence throughout – finishing second in the KOM standings behind Daniel. That, along with his excitement at riding the Tour, might be a portent of what he hopes to do in July.