Refugee in Sweden, seller of soft drinks and now cyclist in the great races of the world. Awet Gebremedhin Andemeskel participates in the 102nd edition of the Giro d'Italia, a beautiful story for this eritrean atypical life.
After three stages of the Giro, Gebremedhin occupies the last position of the classification, more than half an hour already the leader, but the Eritrean climber awaits the arrival of the first ports to climb positions and, above all, be seen in the race.
At 27 years old and participating for the first time in the Giro, he hopes to shine on the stage of May 19, a time trial that ends in a climb of 12 kilometers. But it does not have any pressure. The simple fact of being part of the peloton in a great round is already an achievement for him.
«I will face the Giro as if it were a normal race. I will see every day, you never know what can happen, "he told AFP before the start of the race in Bologna last Saturday.
His passion for cycling was born when his father bought him his first bicycle. He was twelve years and 15 kilometers separated the school from his hometown, Kakebda.
Quickly, his qualities attracted attention and he became an amateur cyclist. In 2013, he obtained a visa to travel to Italy and participates in Florence in the Youth World Championship. Instead of returning to Eritrea, the young man took refuge in Sweden, a country where many compatriots live. He lived locked up in a friend's house for fear of being expelled, waiting for the Immigration Office to regularize his asylum. «It really was not easy. I slept very little, less than four hours a night, and it stressed me a lot, "he explains.
The Scandinavian country agreed to refugee status in November 2015. He then devoted himself to recovering and recycling glass bottles so he could buy a new bicycle. "It was very hard to take it back (cycling) after two years of interruption, it seemed impossible," he recalls.
He ended up participating in amateur races again, but quickly found himself without a contract. Until 2018, the Israel Cycling Academy team signed him up for his academy and this young team created in 2014 became a professional just before the last Giro.
According to its sporting director, the Finnish Kjell Carlström, "Awet is very strong and we wanted to give him the opportunity to evolve and see how he develops as a climber."
He did not participate in the 2018 Tour. "It was too early for him. But this year is prepared. He has more experience, he has won many races and he has shown us what he is capable of in this team ".
For Awet, this first great round is the opportunity to prove that he deserves a place in the elite of cycling. "It is a dream come true. I dreamed of this career since I was little. Sometimes, during training, I realize how lucky I am. When you've been at the bottom of the pit like me, it's amazing to be here. "
He would also be proud to represent Sweden, where he has lived for six years in the city of Jönköping. «I hope to one day have Swedish nationality. I'm very happy there and all the opportunities I've had have been thanks to Sweden. "
While waiting to obtain Swedish citizenship, he runs under the colors of his native Eritrea, in accordance with the regulations of the International Cycling Union (UCI).
Kjell Carlström believes that this Giro is even harder than last year, but Awet "has a very positive mentality, something important when facing a great lap". The Israeli team will not participate in the next Tour de France, but hopes to be invited in 2020 to the biggest cycling race in the world.
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