Following the tragic death earlier this month of the talented young rider Desiet Kidane, a former teammate of hers on the Eritrean national squad has set up a fund to try to raise money for her family. Kidane was struck by a driver and killed while out training in Asmara in Eritrea on November 15, and now Elyas Afewerki has launched a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise €50,000.
Afewerki is a past stage winner in the Tour of Eritrea and was second in the national road race championships in 2017. He told Cyclingnews he first met Kidane in 2018 when they were at a national team gathering, and had kept in touch with her after that point.
“She was actually brilliant, you know?” he told Cyclingnews. “I cannot explain her in just some words. She had so much commitment and she had a big dream. She was the bright future [for Eritrean cycling]. We should have had her racing for another ten years, doing a high level of competitions and joining pro teams.”
Asked to describe her personality, Afewerki spoke of her in the present tense. “As a person, she has empathy, and is a very, very kind person. She’s highly disciplined. She respects all her training, she followed all the programs from her coach before she came to the UCI centre. In 2018, she was the youngest in the national team. She got the gold for the first time in the junior competitions for the national team [she won the road race and time trial at the African Continental Championships – ed.]. That’s what I remember for now.”
Afewerki lives in Sweden, competing with a team there. He said that he last met Kidane two years ago, but had kept in contact with her and other riders from the national team. He said that he was stunned to hear the news of her passing.
“I didn’t expect that. Okay, it happens sometimes in cycling. It happened to [former pro] Chris Anker Sorensen. But I didn’t expect that with her, even if one month before someone else was hit by a car in the homeland. Before then, I’d never heard of people being hit by a car when training in Eritrea.”
He said that he reached out to Kidane’s family after her passing, saying that he wanted to help them out financially by setting up the GoFundMe appeal.
“They were surprised,” he said. “But this is a big loss for them. She has three brothers, but was the only girl in the family. And she's a very close friend to her mum, to all her brothers. So they accepted it [the offer] 100 per cent and told me to go ahead.”
Kidane was part of the UCI’s World Cycling Centre programme and showed considerable promise. As a junior she won both the road race and time trial at the 2018 African Continental Championship in Kigali in Rwanda, and then later that year placed 22nd in the road race and 28th in the time trial at the World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria.
The following year, she was 11th in the youth classification at the Festival Elsy Jacobs stage race and 19th on a stage of the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas, as well as clocking up victory in the Eritrean national time trial championships and silver medals in the road race. This season she was 18th in La Périgord Ladies and 23rd in La Choralis Fourmies Féminine in France, and rode the elite women’s road race at the World Championships in Belgium.
Cyclingnews understands that she was under consideration by a women’s development team, and may have ended up racing there in 2022.
Afewerki aside, others have also paid tribute to her when speaking to Cyclingnews. Adam Szabo had experience working with her at the World Cycling Centre, and said she made a strong impression on him.
“Desiet was my rider for the 2019 season when she was riding for the WCC team and I was the coach/DS there at that time. She was a nice person indeed, but furthermore a great rider with a lot of talent. I truly believed in her abilities.”
Kimberly Coats of the Africa Rising project, which seeks to help cycling develop in Africa and to pave the way for an eventual Black African rider to win the Tour de France, said that Kidane made a big impression over the years.
“I’m just struck by the sadness of all of this. Desiet Kidane first burst onto the world cycling scene at the 2018 African Continental Championships in Rwanda. She swept the junior women’s road and ITT races and her megawatt smile and her fierce competitive spirit showed the world who she was on and off the bike," Coats said.
"We followed her meteoric rise from that point, to the UCI World Cycling Center in Switzerland to a potential ride on a professional development team. Her death is a tragic loss to her family, her cycling country of Eritrea and to all of us working in African cycling.”
Desiet worked with the Eritrean cycling system rather than interacting with Africa Rising, but Coats was clearly impressed by her and said she was an important role model for other riders from Africa.
“She was the hope for all of us bringing up women’s cycling on the continent. It comes down to belief ... if women see women like her make it, the belief level goes up exponentially.
“When Daniel Teklehaimanot and Merhawi Kudus made it to the Tour de France, belief for our guys in Rwanda went up. Seeing Daniel in the KOM [jersey] meant they could make it. Desiet was that woman for many other Black African female cyclists.”
She said that her loss would leave a big gap. “It’s tragic to all who loved her and love the sport.”
The GoFundMe account for Kidane’s family can be found here.
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