Merhawi Kudus signs for EF Education-Nippo

Kudus has spent three years at Astana
Kudus has spent three years at Astana (Image credit: Getty Images)

After three years at Astana, Merhawi Kudus is moving on in 2022, signing for EF Education-Nippo.

The Eritrean climber, now 27, believes he has potential still to be tapped, and is convinced Jonathan Vaughters' American squad is the place to do it.

"Here, I can achieve more, but I cannot do it alone," Kudus said. "With teamwork you can achieve more and go further than you imagine and I have always seen strong teamwork within EF. I believe in the team’s spirit."

Kudus, 27, came through the UCI's World Cycling Centre development set-up and rode as a stagiaire with the team now known as Arkéa-Samsic in 2013 before turning professional with South African team Qhubeka-NextHash - then known as MTN-Qhubeka - in 2014.

He went on to make history as part of the team's groundbreaking appearance as the first African trade team at the Tour de France in 2015, and spent five seasons there in total. 

He moved to Astana in 2019, winning the Tour du Rwanda and placing third overall at the Tour of Turkey in his debut year before riding the Vuelta a España in 2020.

This season Kudus has placed fifth at the Tour of Turkey, eighth at the Route d'Occitanie, and second at Adriatica Ionica, as well as clinching the Eritrean time trial title.

"He’s a rider I was looking at for a long time and the pieces fell together. I'm really excited to have him on the team," said Vaughters.

"He really wanted to be on this team and that’s something that really means a lot to me when somebody says ‘this is the team I want to be at because I feel like you guys are the ones that are going to take me furthest in my career.’ That's music to my ears especially when I hear that from a guy like him because he’s had to break his way into cycling the tough way.

"I see him focused on mountain jerseys and stage wins. He can also do well in week-long stage races. And he’ll be great to help out guys that have GC ambitions. He’s a rider that can make that critical group of 20 to 30 riders in the mountains and be there to support."

Kudus himself has not indicated a preferred race programme for 2022, nor has the length of his contract been disclosed, but he's eyeing a return to the biggest race of all for the first time since that 2015 appearance.

"I want to support the team and also ride for myself, whatever that looks like," he said. "A stage victory in the Tour de France, that is the ultimate dream."

Kudus is EF-Nippo's second official signing for 2022, following Esteban Chaves from Team BikeExchange. 

They are losing Sergio Higuita to Bora-Hansgrohe and Mitch Docker and Tejay van Garderen to retirement, but have handed contract extensions to Neilson Powless, Alberto Bettiol, Hugh Carthy, Magnus Cort Nielsen, Ruben Guerreiro, and Simon Carr.

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Patrick Fletcher
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2022 he has been Deputy Editor, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.