Originally from Eritrea, the 27-year-old competes for the first time at the Giro, one of the world's most legendary races.

The World with AFP Posted today at 16:30

Time to Reading 3 min.

Eritrean cyclist Awet Andemeskel rides for the Israel Cycling Academy team at the Giro 2019 on 14 May.
Eritrean cyclist Awet Andemeskel rides for the Israel Cycling Academy team at the Giro 2019 on 14 May. LUK BENIES / AFP

Refugee in Sweden, seller of cans then climber on one of the biggest cycling races in the world: the unusual course of Awet Gebremedhin Andemeskel is also the strength of this Eritrean, currently on the roads of the 102e Tour of Italy.

Awet Gebremedhin wears the colors of the Israel Cycling Academy (ICA) team, and points after the 3e step to the 175e and last place of the general, pending the first passes, already more than half an hour of the Slovenian leader Primoz Roglic.

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At 27, he hopes to shine, for his first Giro, during the ninth stage, Sunday, May 19, a time trial ending with a rise of 12 km. But no pressure, his only presence in the peloton is already for him a great victory. "I'm going to approach the Giro as if it's a normal race. I'll see from day to day, you never know what can happen ", he confided to AFP before departure on Saturday in Bologna.

His passion for cycling comes when his father buys his first bike. He is 12 years and 15 km separate his home village, Kakebda, from his school.

Amateur cyclist

Very quickly, his qualities are noticed and he becomes an amateur cyclist. In 2013, he obtains a visa for Italy and participates in Florence at the World Championship hopes.

But rather than return to Eritrea, he takes refuge in Sweden, where live many compatriots. He remains cloistered in a friend's house for fear of being deported until the Migration Board grants him asylum. "It was really not easy, He tells. I slept very little, less than four hours a night, and I was stressed a lot. " Sweden granted him refugee status in November 2015. He then began to collect returnable bottles for recycling in order to save money and buy a new bike. "It was very hard to recover after two years of interruption, it seemed impossible to me", he recalls.

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He ends up racing again as an amateur, but quickly finds himself without a contract.

Until 2018, when the Israel Cycling Academy engages in its development workforce and promotes it among professionals just before the first Giro of this young team created in 2014.

According to its sports director, the Finn Kjell Carlström, "Awet is very strong, and we wanted to give him the opportunity to evolve and see how he would develop as a climber". He does not participate in the Giro 2018. "It was too early for him. But this year he is ready. He has more experience, he has won a lot of races, and he showed us what he is capable of on the team. "

A place among the elite

For Awet, this first big round is the opportunity to finally make a place among the elite. "It's a dream come true, I've been dreaming about this race since I was little. Sometimes, during the training, I wake up and realize how lucky I am. When we were in the bottom of the hole like me, it's amazing to be there. "

He is also very proud to represent Sweden, where he has lived for six years in the city of Jönköping. "I hope to have Swedish citizenship someday. (…) I am really happy about it, and all the opportunities that I have had are with Sweden that I owe them. "

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While waiting for the sesame, he runs under the colors of Eritrea, in accordance with the rules of the International Cycling Union.

Kjell Callström believes that this Giro will be even harder than the previous year. "But he has a very positive mentality, which is important when you take a big turn. " The team will not participate in the 2019 Tour de France but hopes to be invited next year.

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