Former Cervélo Test Team stagiaire and current UCI World Centre member Daniel Teklehaimanot does not have any concrete professional offer for 2011. The Eritrean prodigy’s entourage is talking with a North-American Pro Continental team and a new Continental project in China. Despite his five Africa Continental Champion crowns and his Tour of Rwanda win in the last three weeks, the 22-year-old Teklehaimanot did not manage to convince a ProTour squad to recruit him.
However, his uncertain future isn't particularly worrying, says his French coach and adviser Michel Thèze, who is in charge of examining the professional offers, alongside his countryman Frédéric Magné, UCI World Centre's Director.
“We need to be sure that the team where begins will be the safest and most helpful for Daniel, otherwise we'll wait,” Thèze told Cyclingnews. “It's a pity that Cervélo folded because we can be almost sure they would have signed Daniel and they were the precise kind of team we are looking for.”
Teklehaimanot rode the last two seasons for the UCI World Centre, based in Switzerland. In the U23 Nations Cup, he finished 6th in the Tour de l'Avenir in 2009 and won a stage at the Ville de Saguenay, Canada last June. He crashed six times between August and September, struggled in the U23 World Championships and wanted his season to stop.
Eventually, he went on to ride in Italy with Cervélo as a stagiaire to prepare the African Continental Championships and the Tour of Rwanda, where he overcame the Moroccan and South African riders. He leads the Africa Tour 86 points ahead of the Moroccan Jelloul and 103 points ahead of his teammate Russom.
“Daniel is very focused on his results,” his mentor Thèze adds. “His bad Worlds were more stressful for him than the questions about his future. He really wants to turn professional but he is staying very cool. He's upright, fair, altruistic and clean. He's the kind of athlete cycling needs. That's why we are so protective of him.”
Teklehaimanot will ride in January’s Tropicale Amissa Bongo, in Gabon, with the Eritrean team. He will then train at the UCI Continental Centre based in South Africa before a possible switch back to the UCI World Centre if he has no professional team. He may also divide his 2011 schedule between the World Centre and a Continental or Pro Continental squad.
For now, he is enjoying some holidays near Asmara, the Eritrean capital. He received a triumphant welcome at the airport on Sunday morning on his return from the Tour of Rwanda. The Commissioner of Eritrean Sports and the Minister for Public Works was on hand to congratulate. A meeting may be planned in the coming days with the President of the Republic. Teklehaimanot and other Eritrean riders' success in Rwanda (six stages wins out of nine) inspired a statement of the Ministry of Information which underlined the status of sport and especially cycling in the country: “Sports events constitute the building blocs of culture that reinforce broad-based psychology and nationalism.” The statement concludes by saying, “Congratulations to the Eritrean people! Glory to the ever-champion Eritrean youth!”
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