Will Start Sunday, leading team Israel Start-Up Nation in TOUR OF RWANDA
Israel Start-up Nation Press Release, Tel- Aviv, Feb 20, 2020
His story may be one of the most inspiring stories in pro cycling if not the one that tops them all: as African man whose iron will make him break through any wall ever faced – from poverty, loneliness, hunger, and refugee status – to reach his cycling driven dreams.
And now comes the next chapter in Awet Gebremedhin’s almost unbelievable story: a leadership role in the team that handed him the opportunity to reach heights he never imagined possible – taking part in and finishing the first Grand Tour in his career. The Israel Cycling Academy has given him another pro contract and a leadership role in its new Continental Team, plus a guaranteed racing program in its Pro Tour outfit Israel Start-Up Nation. Awet will make his debut in ISN, leading the team in the Tour of Rwanda this upcoming Sunday.
Generally, ISN is excited to return to Rwanda, but especially Awet Gebremedhin is looking forward to race in Rwanda. As an Eritrean hero, he says, racing in Rwanda is a big motivation. “You can’t believe the feeling I feel inside. I am so extremely excited to start with the ISN-colors in Rwanda. I feel it’s going to be a great Tour for us.”
“I am so grateful for this new opportunity given to me,” said the emotional Awet. “At some point, I almost lost hope when the team went to WorldTour, but then they came to me and said: we want you to step up and lead the young generation while also racing with ISN. I feel that it’s the chance for me to give back to the team which gave me a chance. You will now see the new Awet. It’s the role I want: to help young Israeli riders and also help young riders in Africa.”
This was the most emotionally rewarding year in his life, admitted Gebremedhin, who is an Eritrean born but who fled the country to reach Sweden, where he has now adopted nationality. But not before he was forced to starve for a year and hide in a basement. Later, when he was able to go free, he managed to buy a used bike by selling empty beer bottles.
Late last summer, after completing his last 2019 race with “Israel Cycling Academy,” he was able to return to the Ethiopian city of Mekele, not far from the Eritrean border. That’s where his wife, his newborn son, and his parents were allowed to move and reunite with him. Israel Cycling Academy has agreed to let him stay and train there for months preparing for the new season: “It was the ultimate happiness for me,” he said. “For the first time in seven years, I was able to live a healthy life: living with my love ones. It’s like I was in a rut for seven years.”
Now, he is determined to give something back to the team that kept its faith in him: “I trained like never before,” he said. “Climbing constantly in the Ethiopian mountains above 2000 and 3000 meters, adding running to my regiment. I was always a super-motivated individual – but now more than ever”.
ICA team manager Aviad Israel: “We feel that he will grow into his role. We got not only a great rider but also somebody who will inspire and lead our young guys: they will look at him and understand how far he was willing to go to realize his ambition to become a pro rider. Awet is a role model like no other”.
In the Tour of Rwanda, he will be part of a group of mixed veterans and young riders: Colombian Edwin Avila and Awet will be the experienced riders, with Austrian newcomer climber Patrick Schelling, leading young Israeli Omer Lahav and Australian Freddy Ovett.
As Israel Start-Up Nation is the only WorldTour team in Rwanda this year, it is evident that the ambitions are high. With a strong and motivated team, Director Sportive Lionel Marie is hunting for success in the African country. “We want to win at least one stage and reach the podium in the GC.”
For Israeli talent Omer Lahav, the Tour du Rwanda will be his very first professional stage race. “I did some UCI u23-races before, but this is new for me.”
Generally, it has been a long time since Lahav competed. “Just to be racing is already great, and then in Rwanda, it will be so fantastic.”
For Patrick Schelling (Switzerland), it is the third non-European race this season. After competing in the Vuelta, a San Juan, and the Tour Colombia, Rwanda will be his next race. “Although I travel a lot, it is fantastic to start a season as I do,” the Swiss climber, who hopes to take advantage of the Colombian ‘altitude-effect,’ he says.
“I ride in nice weather, good atmosphere, and with great fans – I cannot wish of anything else.”
Israel Start-Up Nation line-up:
- Edwin Ávila
- Awet Gebremedhin
- Omer Lahav
- Freddy Ovett
- Patrick Schelling
For the occasion, Israel Cycling Academy is releasing an 11-minute movie that documented Awet in his new life in Ethiopia. The special ICA video crew has accompanied Awet in his journey home to meet his newborn son for the first time.