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"I didn’t expect to win because I didn’t really know what my capacities were in a climb such as this. It was a dream and that’s why I cried when I crossed the line. It was the best stage to win and I did it," Ber...

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23.04.2013 @ 20:45 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

Eritrean Natnael Berhane (Europcar) delivered on his promises from his early years when he won today's queen stage of the Tour of Turkey and took over the overall lead. As he has just started his professional career, he did not know what to expect from today's climb and he was greatly surprised by the day's result.

 

Prior to this season Natnael Berhane was signed by Team Europcar as a huge prospect for the future. With a victory in Tour of Algeria and the African championships and a number of strong results in U23 races in Europe, plenty of teams hoped to secure the Eritrean's services but the French team came out triumphant.

 

Today Berhane showed why so many teams had shown interest. He emerged as the strongest from a 4-rider group on the steep Elmali climb in the queen stage of the Tour of Turkey and took a huge win in his first season at the highest level.

 

With limited experience he did not know what he would be capable of in a hard finish like today's and even if he had some ambitions for the stage he had never imagined to leave behind all of the seasoned professionals.

 

"It’s huge," he said. "It was a hard stage. I didn’t expect to win because I didn’t really know what my capacities were in a climb such as this. It was a dream and that’s why I cried when I crossed the line. It was the best stage to win and I did it!"

 

"To win race at such level was better than I could hope for in my first year as a pro," he continued. "It’s my first participation in the Tour of Turkey. It’s great. Just before, I rode the Tour of Trentino in which we already did some mountains. I came here hoping to finish in the top 5 but first is even better. Now we have a jersey to defend."

 

The team had been on the offensive all day with Björn Thurau infiltrating the day's early break and the German was the last to be caught on the lower slopes of the day's final climb. Moments later Berhane went off in pursuit of Serge Pauwels who had escaped a little earlier.

 

"We did a great team-work with Bjorn Thurau in the break," he said. Later the team helped me a lot in the climb until I caught the rider in front (Pauwels, ed.) I gave everything to win in the last meters of the climb."

 

Berhane is aware of the significance of his victory. As an African rider his victory on the big scene is a further testament to the globalization of the sport and the rise of cycling in his home continent. With MTN-Qhubeka also impressing as the first professional continental team from Africa there is plenty of source for hope for the future.

 

Meanwhile Berhane hopes to continue his progress and learn from team captains Pierre Rolland and Thomas Voeckler.

 

"I do everything I can to become a rider like they are," he said. "Europcar is a great team. I used to see them on television and it’s very moving to think that now, people in Africa can see me win live on TV. A month ago Tsgabu Grmay with whom I spent two years at the World Cycling Centre in Potchefstroem in South Africa and then in Aigle in Switzerland, won a stage in the Tour of Taiwan. And now it’s my turn…"

 

Berhane will now try to defend his overall lead in the remaining 5 stages of the race. He will be challenged already tomorrow when the riders have to tackle a hard climb in the final part of the race.

 

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