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The Afghanistan women’s road race championship Sunday was about more than just the race itself.
Fariba Hashimi, 19, rode to victory in Aigle on Sunday, earning herself a professional contract with Israel-Premier Tech Roland [formerly Roland Cogeas Edelweiss] and a chance to ride next year’s Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. She says that she will be racing for “all the women in Afghanistan” when she makes her debut next year.
Her elder sister Yulduz, who finished second, has signed for the team’s new development squad, which is set to race for the first time next year.
“I can’t lie – it’s so exciting but it’s pressure, too. Honestly, I didn’t think I would get this opportunity to ride for a WorldTour team and a chance to race in the Tour de France. I will take the challenge head-on and race for all the women in Afghanistan,” Fariba said.
“My country today is dangerous for many of the women living there. Women are not free to live and thrive as they wish, but if they see me riding in the TDF with the Afghan colors they will see that everything is possible.”
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The contest for victory was very much a family affair with both Hashimi sisters forming a strong breakaway group. The duo worked together right until the finishing stretch, where it would come down to a sprint between the sisters to decide who took home the title.
In the end, it was the younger sister Fariba that took the sprint win to become the Afghanistan national champion. There was an emotional moment afterward as the siblings hugged each other after crossing the line, emotions pouring out.
“I didn’t think I would win, I thought it would be my sister,” Fariba said afterward.
Yulduz said: “We talked to each other during the race, and we worked together which is why we could stay so far ahead.”
— Gabriela Cabré (@gab_cabre) October 23, 2022
Some six minutes after chasers Nooria Mohammadi and Zahra Rezayee closed in on the finish line. Rezayee pushed on as the duo navigated a roundabout with 500 meters to go and made a small gap, just enough to secure herself the bronze medal.
All three of the podium finishers currently live in Italy and were evacuated from Afghanistan in August 2021 as the Taliban closed in on Kabul.
Sending a message
Many of the 49 women that took part wanted it to send out a message of hope to their compatriots and highlight to the rest of the world their plight. This is the first time that the Afghanistan women’s road race championship has been held outside of the country.
Women’s rights in Afghanistan have been severely reduced since the Taliban returned to power in 2021. A report by the humanitarian organization Amnesty in July said that the Taliban has “decimated the rights of women and children.”
Many of the riders competing in Sunday’s 57km race in Switzerland, near the UCI headquarters in Aigle, had fled the Taliban. Masomah Ali Zada, who finished sixth, left Afghanistan prior to last year’s takeover but did so following threats from the group and now lives in France.
Ali Zada, who competed at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, said she wanted the event to send a message to the world.
“It was more than a competition today,” she said. “I hope it has sent a message about the rights of women in Afghanistan, and that the world will wake up. I hope the women will get back their rights. We are trying to change things.”
The 22-year-old Wahida Hussaini, a fellow refugee who finished ninth, echoed Ali Zada’s sentiments.
“I am so happy. It has been incredible for me. Last year I did this competition in Afghanistan and this year I could compete in Switzerland. My message to all the women in Afghanistan now is: ‘Stay strong every day’,” she said.