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"This is a true happiness. I could not believe it was possible to beat a rider like Luis Leon Sanchez who has a great track record. Finally, I got it which means I'm getting a place in the pro ranks," Berhane says

Photo: Tour of Turkey/Hakan Seker

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20.01.2014 @ 13:29 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Natnael Berhane continued his rise in the professional cycling world when he won his second major stage race, the Tropicale Amissa Bongo. The Eritrean managed to dethrone Luis Leon Sanchez on the final day and was greatly surprised by beating one of cycling's major stars.

 

After several strong showings in the U23 ranks and on the African calendar, Natnael Berhane (Europcar) first proved his talents in the pro ranks when he won the queen stage to Elmali in last year's Tour of Turkey. With an impending disqualification of Mustafa Sayar, he is likely later be declared the overall winner of the race.

 

In the past week, Natnael Berhane has proved that his win in Turkey was no fluke. Going up against riders like Linus Gerdemann and Luis Leon Sanchez, the Europcar rider came away with the win in the first major stage race of the 2014 season when he took over the leader's jersey on the final day of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo.

 

While Berhane is a rider for the future, Sanchez was undoubtedly the biggest name in the race and the new Caja Rural rider had led the race for almost the entire race when he lined up for the final stage which was expected to suit the sprinters. However, Europcar had a plan for their Eritrean leader and kept things together for the intermediate sprints which allowed Berhane to take the needed seconds to be crowned winner of the race.

 

Afterwards, the Eritrean could not believe that he had beaten a multiple Tour de France stage winner and former winner of the Paris-Nice.

 

"This is a true happiness," he said. "I could not believe it was possible to beat a rider like Luis Leon Sanchez who has a great track record. Finally, I got it which means I'm getting a place in the pro ranks.

 

“I want to thank my teammates who did enormous work for me today,” he told RFI.fr. “I worked a lot, thinking every day about this win. I dedicate this victory to Eritrea. I’m so happy that I don’t know what to say.”

 

The win gave Europcar something to celebrate right from the beginning of the season and continues their run of success in the African event after having taken the overall wins every year since 2010. Team manager Jean Rene Bernadeau had tears in his eyes at the finish, having invested much in the development of his talented young African.

 

“The Tropicale is the true barometer of cycling in Africa,” Bernaudeau told RFI.fr. “A few years ago, African riders were struggling, but now we’re discovering some talented riders.

 

“I’ve discovered a fine African rider who will be, I hope, the ambassador for the African continent,” he added. “Sport is also about discovering talent. I’m emotional because I am the first one to place his confidence in a rider of great talent without looking at his colour.”

 

Berhane will get the chance to continue his good start to the season when he lines up in the Tour de Langkawi on February 27.

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