This article is the third and final part of our article on racism and diversity in cycling:
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In 2022, the World Cycling Center (WCC) and its promoters experienced many contrasting emotions. This “world university” of cycling is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the celebrations organized in Switzerland by the International Cycling Union have found a tremendous echo in the appearance of Biniam Girmai. Before becoming a professional in 2020, the Eritrean himself wore the colors of the CMC, led by Vincent Jacques since 2019, until his death at the age of 52 on March 30, three days after Hirmey’s victory over Ghent-Wevelgem.
“We are losing an employee, but also a friend, full of hope, who defended the future of sports, our sport“, congratulated UCI President David Lappartien, who appointed Jacques National Technical Director of France before taking him to Eagle, where Breton (Lapartiène) and Fran-Comtou (Jacques) took on the torch of a slow but progressive opening of cycling outside. his European cradle.
If BMX, mountain biking or even the track have found an audience and stars with very diverse experiences, the road peloton, according to the UCI, is left behind in matters of diversity. Its present is still written on the European continent, after its history gradually allowed to integrate American runners (both North and South, with controversial economic weight) and Oceanians (who also benefit from their own structures, including the BikeExchange team and historical relations with European players), while Asian and African athletes remain marginal.
Coaches without borders
In its quest for universality, UCI has made CMC its cutting-edge tool, with headquarters in Eigle, the Federation’s own headquarters and branches in South Africa, South Korea, India, Japan and Portugal. “However, we have trained almost 2,000 athletes of 235 nationalities“- reminds Amina Lanaia, Director General of UCI, which allocates an annual budget of 6 million Swiss francs (5.8 million euros) to WCC and its projects of solidarity with national federations.
Mohammed Walid Zemni is one of the beneficiaries and participants in this solidarity. A Tunisian, he has lived in Oman since 2012, where the local cycling federation hires him as a sports consultant in charge of the national team. “I was given the mission to develop cycling in the country and go to high school to show talent“- he says from Muscat.
Being a runner in the 2000s and has a master’s degree in sports, Zemni also shares his experience in neighboring countries. “When the federation needs to train coaches, it asks the UCI, which sends coaches like me“- explains the Tunisian coach.”I have intervened in the Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Mauritania and Tunisia».
This year, Zemni and the Omani Federation, in turn, asked the UCI to get equipment before participating in the Tour of Oman, where the selection of riders identified in 2014 represented local colors for the first time in the history of competitions created in 2010. “The level was very high, but we intend to rely on this experience to begin the cycle of many years of work“, – he explains.
I picked up the phone and called the Eritrean Federation
Where Qatari’s investment in cycling has run out since the Doha World Cup in 2016, the Omani government has remained faithful to cycling since Oman’s first tour in 2010. But in addition to national federations, the UCI encourages private players, race organizers and teams to support and develop diversity in road cycling.
A recent example is Canyon // Sram with its development team involved in the women’s peloton. The older, two men’s formations maintain a privileged relationship with the African branch of the World Bicycle Center (led by former South African track racer Jean-Pierre van Ziel): the iconic Qhubeka Douglas Ryder, which became the World Tour from 2016 to 2021, . Conti-level structure this season with Nick Dlamini *; and Bike Aid, a German sports association that develops African cyclists.
“The professional bicycle was in crisis in Germany after doping, but the practice remained important“, recalls Timo Schaefer, co-founder of the structure.We wanted to do something different by giving our project a social dimension. We want to give a chance to riders who do not have access to professional cycling, which, of course, applies to Africans.».
“In the beginning it was a small adventure, something quite funny“, he says. “I picked up the phone and called the Eritrean Federation to offer classes for their runners. But we were a new team, they didn’t know us and we didn’t have a place».
Since then, Bike Aid has formed and received riders from about ten African countries (Kenya, Namibia, Uganda, Togo, etc.). Among them is African champion Enoch Mulubrhan (an Eritrean, like Girmai), who was crowned earlier this year in Sharm el-Sheikh, having just left a small German team to join the Italians Bardiani-CSF-Faizan at the Conti level. professional “He is an example“, rejoices Schaefer.
Audenarda is the world capital of cycling
To best support their African talents, the team welcomes them to apartments in the Saar, near the Franco-German border. Schaefer insists on the need to overcome a possible language barrier: “If the runner does not get at least a basic level of English, it’s over. Davit Emane, who joined us last year during the season, spoke almost no English. He made an effort to learn, and now he is much better integrated into the team. His result in the Tour of Turkey (7th place) shows that he is a different racer.“
Argentine Mauricio Fraser also wants his riders to dive into the European cycling universe. “We are the first Latin American team to leave Paris-Roubaix Juniorssaid the leader of the Start team, which includes the Conti team, and the Junior team last year. His young shoots crossed the Hell of the North again this spring, with 33rd place for Uruguayan Pablo Bonilla. .
“Today, the difference between a European cyclist, whether Belgian, French or Norwegian, and Latin American is huge because we lack racing and experience.“, he explains. His decision? Immerse yourself in Argentine, Cuban, Uruguayan or Mexican talents and settle them in Oudenard, the city of arrival of the Tour of Flanders.”It is the cycling capital of the worldFraser admires.We rent a huge house and live with the children. Often parents give their all for them, and they are very motivated. This is a school of cycling and life».
E-sports plays a role
From Catalonia, where she settled, Ashley Mulman-Pasio even hopes to cross the border. “As a South African, I am very far from home and I see so many young girls who would like to be in my place, but it is very difficult for me to go to Europe for various reasons.“, – says the seven-time champion of Africa.
The Pretoria native will retire at the end of the year. And, like the British Tao Geogegan Hart, she decided to personally invest in diversity. Enthusiastic about e-sports during the pandemic, Mulman-Pasio wants to develop the practice of virtual cycling for everyone in his team Rocacorba. The road puts everyone in their place. Will a home exercise machine provide a place for everyone?
South African Ashley Mulman-Pasio at the 2021 World Cup
Authors: Getty Images
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