Gebrehiwet and Afewerki have benefitted from advice from CCH alumnus Alex Peters, who rode for Team Sky in 2015 and 2016. Peters gave Gebrehiwet a heart-rate monitor, nutrition advice and a programme to make the most of training sessions. “One minute hard, one minute tempo, 10 minutes, like sprints,” Gebrehiwet says. “It’s really hard, like in a race. You go for an attack, and then you have to continue.
“In 2017 in the summer, I didn’t have a job and I just trained, six days a week,” Gebrehiwet says, his determination evident. He’d go out early for a long ride, getting back in time to watch the Tour de France. “I go and train, come back, eat, sleep. That’s it.”
Gebrehiwet recognises the achievements of Teklehaimanot, and the boost he has given to African cycling – “there are strong guys in Eritrea, but they haven’t had the opportunity” – but his hero is Alberto Contador. “He’s so powerful. When he attacks, he’s flying,” Gebrehiwet’s face lights up, grinning, as he pours sugar into his soy latte.
Would he ever want to represent Eritrea?
“I don’t know. If I become a professional cyclist, it doesn’t matter. If I’m in Eritrea, I can race in Eritrea, but I’m here, so I race here. I want to ride with England as well, because they are helping me here.”
Abrha thinks both young men have the talent, and are in a good position to develop further. Gebrehiwet’s ambitions are to progress to Cat 1 in 2019, and get a better bike, which depends on funding and sponsorship for the club’s programme, to give him a chance at becoming professional.
CCH’s Apperley is modest about the opportunities he has given Gebrehiwet. “Well, I haven’t given it to him yet, to be fair, but we’re working together to try to make something happen.”
Gebrehiwet is not certain where his cycling will take him, but he’s clear it’s already brought him a long way. “If I’m not cycling, I don’t know. I would be crazy.”
Words by James Burgess; Images by Michael Blann
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