The Tour Ethiopia – Meles Zenawi race drew to a close last week, which took place in Tigray State of Ethiopia from 28 August to 2 Sept. Team South Africa’s Reynard Butler impressed many back home, as he returned to the country with two stage wins to his name.
Countries Ghana, Sudan, Tanzania, Nigeria, Algeria, Côte d'Ivoire, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya as well as two Ethiopian Teams took part in the five-stage race, covering over 600km.
The name of the race, Tour Ethiopia – Meles Zenawi, was put in place to honour the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who devoted much of his life to initiating green projects around the country.
The host country dominated with three stage wins (1;2;4) and South Africa claimed two (3;5).
South African Team Manager, Peter-Lee Jefferies, said: “Firstly, I would like to just thank all who made this tour available to the riders and staff. It has been an honour and an absolute pleasure to guide/manage and help the national team in Ethiopia.”
Jefferies shared his pride about the team, and mentioned that each member of the team was a true ambassador to South Africa, not just on, but also off of the bike as well. “They made a point of speaking with other nations and always made themselves available for press and TV, no matter how tired they were, after or even before stages,” he said.
Jefferies mentioned that the team were out-classed on large climbs in the race predominantly by the Ethiopian riders. Most of the stages started above 2300m, and altitude did prove to be a challenge for the South Africans. “We came up with a strategy every day to get the maximum out of the day’s stage, and to say that they stuck to the days’ plans is an understatement,” said Jefferies.
Jefferies described the teamwork as “phenomenal” and said that Butler’s win on Stage Two was all thanks to the critical moments of team work displayed.
On Butler’s second win, Jefferies said: “To see the SA jersey sit up with arms held high was just an indescribable feeling. The team car erupted and every rider that came in, after the front group, from South Africa shouted with genuine joy upon hearing Butler had won.”
Participation in this prestigious Tour of Ethiopia was made possible by Ethiopian Airlines who assisted with generous discounts on air tickets to Ethiopia.
Cycling South Africa President, William Newman, said: “Well done to the team on completing what turned out to be a very challenging tour. We achieved our objective of exposing our emerging riders to international racing. If Ethiopia can have a dozen riders capable of racing at this level, there is no reason why our young riders cannot do likewise. We will continue providing them with such opportunities.
I congratulate the Ethiopian Cycling Federation on staging a very successful inaugural Tour Ethiopia - Meles Zenawi race. We are also very grateful to Ethiopian Airlines for their generous assistance with the air tickets for the team.”