South African Louis Meintjes has been named African Cyclist of the Year 2017, according to the organizers of the premier Tropicale Amissa Bongo race founded in Gabon. This year’s race begins on January 15, with a route that crosses the West African nation and a part of neighboring Cameroon.
“It’s a huge honor,” Meintjes said after hearing the award news. “I am very thankful that I have the support of the people of the African continent. And hope I can keep the African flag flying high in 2018.”
The top African honors have been presented by Tropicale Amissa Bongo each year beginning in 2012. This is the second time that Meintjes, who rides for the United Arab Emirates team, has won an award that – apart from his 2013 success – has always gone to Eritrean riders.
Natnael Berhane, Mekseb Debesay, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Tesfom Okubamariam, the 2016 winner, all have come from Eritrea. Okubamariam was ranked eighth this year, while three other Eritreans – Merhawi Kudus, Meron Teshome and Meron Abraham – also made the 2017 Top Ten rankings.
All other 2017 riders came from Rwanda, Ethiopia, Morocco and South Africa.
Eritreans have made a name for themselves in the cycling sport, including the honor of being the first from sub-Saharan Africa to complete the challenging Tour de France. They’ve been so successful that a new short movie from the Cape Town-based Sinamatella Productions explores the reasons behind their racing dominance.
“King of the Mountains” is a look at Teklehaimanot and the history of Eritrea’s cycling success. See the link to learn more. To view the teams competing in next month’s Tropicale Amissa Bongo, check here.
Image: Sinametella, TAB race