23 year old Marco Polo Cycling Team rider Solomon Shiferaw of Ethiopia did win the Eddy Merckx Gran Fondo in Huy. After a race of 175km through the Ardennes (2500 altitude meters, he was able to beat his two breakaway companions on the same steep finish as the Fleche Wallone.
Shiferaw is one of the best riders from Ethiopia and is staying in Europe for less then two months now, to get used to the European level and way of racing. He did get a 23rd place in the pro race of Heist op den Berg and a 18th in the Pro/Am race in Koln Longerich before.
The African Marco Polo Cycling Team riders with cycling legend Eddy Merckx, Estifanos Gebresilassie, Solomon Shiferaw and Daniel Abraham, and staff member Chris Bartlett. (photo: Annabelle & Annabelle)
The mission of the Marco Polo Cycling Team is to give chances to riders from non-traditional cycling countries.
The team sent 3 riders to a couple of Gran Fondo's (also 3Ballons in France, where Daniel Abraham from Eritrea did get 6th and Shiferaw 10th) in cooperation with the Veltec Gran Fondo team. Veltec is a trading company that distributes several brands, including Cervélo. The Marco Polo Cycling Team uses Cervélo R5 bikes, so a cooperation was easily found.
Eritreans have been noted for dominating races in Africa and Daniel Teklehaimanot (stagiair at Cervélo test team) is considered by many as one of the biggest talents on earth. It now turns out that the best Ethiopians also have a great potential. Apart from Shiferaw and Gebresilassie racing with Marco Polo Cycling, also Tgabu Grmay did already have some impressive results with the UCI development team.
Solomon Shiferaw about his win: "It was a tough race, with all the hills and especially the rain and the wind. We initiated a large break after around 25 kms already, together wih my team mate Daniel Abraham. And we also did have Estifanos Gebresilassie in the group behind us, controlling race favorites Snel and Bury. We stayed out front for around 150kms, the gropup did get smaller and smaller. Daniel did a great solo of around 30 kms and after he got caught in the last 10 kms, it was up to me. We were with 3 going into the finale. I was in a comfortable position with 2 team members behind and was able to sprint to the win on the last climb. I am very, very happy with my first win in Europe!!"
Solomon Shiferaw finishing solo on the Mur de Huy, winning the Eddy Merckx Gran Fondo. (photo: Annabelle & Annabelle)
The Marco Polo Team did have a good weekend altogether, as other team members had a great result in the tough Pro Race in Lede, with Marc Ryan finishing 5th, Jan Kuyckx 9th, Nick Mitchel 25th and Loh Sea Keong 33th.
Next on the race calendar for Abraham, Gebresilassie and Shiferaw is the Tour of Qinghai Lake in China. Where they will race with Xing Yan Dong (China), Jan Kuyckx (Belgium), Loh Sea Keong (Malaysia) and Nick Mitchel (Australia).
The Marco Polo Cycling Team racing in Europe with 10 nationalities. (photo: Remko Kramer)