A 26-year-old bicyclist from Eritrea was honored as the King of the Mountains during the sixth stage at the Tour de France in July 2015.
Daniel Teklehaimanot proudly put on the maillot à pois rouges, also known as the polka dot jersey, symbolizing his victory in the stage. He took the jersey after surging to the top of the three small climbs that made up the 190-kilometer stretch from Abbeville to Le Havre.
“What a moment for African cycling! What a moment for Eritrea, and what a moment for Daniel Teklehaimanot as he gives the thumbs up!” shouted a BBC announcer as Teklehaimanot reached the top of the stage.
During a news conference later, the cyclist said his stage win was a victory for Africa.
“I am proud to be African, and I am proud to be Eritrean,” he said. “This is a day I will never forget. It’s really important for us, for Eritrea, and for my teammates, and for all of Africa.”
Teklehaimanot was the first black African to wear a leader’s jersey in the Tour de France, and he rode on the first African team to compete there, the South Africa-based MTN-Qhubeka. The team finished fifth overall in the race.
Qhubeka is a Nguni word meaning “carry on” or “move forward.”
Teklehaimanot, who finished 49th overall in the Tour, is one of the most accomplished riders in Africa’s history. He won the Tour of Rwanda and the Kwita Izina Cycling Tour on the 2010-2011 UCI Africa Tour. He was the first Eritrean rider to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics. That same year, he was the first Eritrean to compete in La Vuelta, one of the three major European tours.