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Throughout the Giro d’Italia, VeloNews will be talking to some of the unsung heroes in the peloton – those riders that battle on each day without the recognition the major GC favorites or sprint stars receive.
Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier fell in love with cycling at an early age.
It’s hardly surprising that it didn’t take long for Ghebreigzabhier — riding at the Giro d’Italia for Trek-Segafredo — to find his passion for the bike given how it is so culturally ingrained in his native Eritrea.
Eritrean riders in the WorldTour may be relatively recent arrivals, but cycling has deep roots in the African country. A lasting legacy of Italian colonization — which lasted for approximately 60 years — bike racing is a national obsession in the country.
“In Eritrea, cycling is the first sport. It is the most famous, number one sport,” Ghebreigzabhier told VeloNews. “I followed it from when I was really young, and then step by step I became a cyclist myself.
“My dream to be a rider started when I was young. At first, I started to ride for fun and bit by bit things changed for me.”
Once he started riding, Ghebreigzabhier only ever had eyes for the bike, and he plowed all his efforts into it. His early love affair with racing meant there were no opportunities to explore other career paths, but that didn’t matter because there was only ever one thing he was going to do.
“I started cycling from a really young age, so I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t cycling,” he said. “Maybe I would be a footballer, maybe I’m not really sure about that, or maybe I might have studied to go into medicine.
“I can’t really say because I started cycling so young, and I gave my all — my time and my full focus — to cycling.”
Now he is a seasoned professional, Ghebreigzabhier does enjoy some time off the bike when he is able to. Exploring some of Eritrea’s woodland is a particular favorite pastime.
“I really like hiking in the forest and in the off-season and I would often go and do this near my home in Eritrea,” he told VeloNews.
Turning his passion for riding into a profession has given Ghebreigzabhier an opportunity to expand his horizons.
Though he enjoys it when he’s able to talk in his own language in the peloton with his fellow Eritreans – of which there is an increasing amount in the bunch – he relishes the chance to learn from riders and staff from other cultures.
“I love to be able to meet with the staff and riders and getting to talk with people who have different languages, different cultures,” he said. “Everything is different, and you can share your experiences with people and gain some experience from other people, too. I really enjoy the life of a professional cyclist.”
After joining the WorldTour back in 2018, signing for Trek-Segafredo over the winter was one of the biggest milestones in Ghebreigzabhier’s young career. As the 26-year-old has climbed each rung of the cycling ladder, his ambitions have grown along with it.
“The dream has come step by step,” he said. “Now I’m professional and it’s not enough to be just a professional now. I have more dreams now, like taking a victory and to perform among the best professional riders.”
“One of my favorite memories was in Eritrea in 2014 when I became the Eritrean national champion. That was a really big win for me because I was with the amateur team at that time, also there were a lot of strong riders there like professional riders. That win was really nice, also it was in my country.”