With two stage wins, a second place overall finish behind teammate Joseph Areruya and victory in the team classification with Dimension Data for Qhubeka, the Tour of Rwanda was the perfect farewell to the squad for Metkel Eyob.
Eyob is one of the Tour of Rwanda's most prolific stage winners with five, but finds himself looking for a new team as, at 24, he has grown out of the U23 programme at the Dimension Data for Qhubeka Continental squad this year. Despite his results, contribution to team success and stints as a stagiaire with the Dimension Data team in the past two seasons, Eyob is still searching for a contract to continue his career next year.
"I don't have a contact yet now but maybe now teams see my results," Eyob explained to Cyclingnews after the final Tour of Rwanda podium celebrations. "It is the cycling life. It is a difficult life. My dream is to be professional and to race in the Grand Tours so I hope I find a team and I can be strong for next year."
From the Eritrean capital Asmara, located at 2,325 metres in elevation, Eyob's strength is in the mountains, which is reflected in his slender frame. Andrew Smith, Eyob's sports director at Dimension Data for Qhubeka, explained the versatile characteristics that go along with Eyob's ability to thrive at altitude.
"For his physique and weight, he is really smart and quick in the way he positions himself in the peloton, and he is also very good at reading the races," Smith told Cyclingnews. "If he steps up to a Pro Continental or WorldTour team, maybe not a role as a leader or winning stages as much, but I think he will make a super domestique in any kind of conditions."
With Nickolas Dlamini, the mountain classification winner at the Baby Giro, and Amanuel Gebreigzabhier graduating into the WorldTour team from next year, Smith explained there was no possibility for Eyob to also make the step up.
"Metkel is almost a victim of our and his success as we have filled two spots in the WorldTour team from our development team this year," he explained. "Unfortunately there is no space to take him in the WorldTour team. I think I can speak for the team that we really want to see him in a big team. He has been a phenomenal teammate to everyone. He is always playing a support role so it would be very nice to see him go to one of the big teams, or even a Pro Continental or Continental team."
For Eyob, the ambition remains a contract to allow him the opportunity to continue racing in Europe. If no contract materialises for 2018, Eyob won't be hanging up the wheels and pursuing a new career.
"I never stop, I ride in my country and I can race with my national team, so I never stop," he said.
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