An 11-member Nigerian cycling team last night departed Abuja for Eritrea for the first ever African Cup competition slated for between November 21 and 25 November.
The team comprising five females, three males and three technical officials is participating in the competition which also serves as qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games and the World Championship.
Cycling Federation of Nigeria (CFN) President, Giandomenico Massari, who disclosed this in Abuja, said the federation has to bend over backwards to finance the trip because of its importance to the aspirations of Team Nigeria ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and 2019/20 World Championship.
“The competition is first of its kind in the continent. It is important we participate and qualify at this championship because it is a point scoring event for qualification to participate in 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the world championship. For us it is a must go event. It is for this reason that we have made sure that the team participate,” he said.
He added that everything the team requires for success at the African Cup had been provided by the federation, including visa and travel arrangements, lodging and accommodation, equipment and all other support the team need to excel.
Among the elite women cyclists listed include Tombrapa Grikpa, Ese Ukpeseraye, Rosemary Marcus, Glory Odiase and Iroh Obiageri. The male cyclists are Korutimi Pabor, Shamsudeen Alhassan, Fatiu Abolaji. While the technical officials include; Joy Wachukwu (Team Coach), Auwalu Yakubu (team Mechanic).
The team is led by Confederation of African Cycling (CAC) member and Technical Director of the CFN, Mohammed Bashir.
To adequately prepare Team Nigeria for the competition Massari said the cyclists had a month intensive training camp in the hills of Gombe chosen because of its difficult terrain.
“Like the Giro delle Marche, the competition is sponsored by the federation, good willed people are still the ones supporting the federation. At the moment, nothing is coming from the government but let me be frank, I’m not so worried about this funding issues. What I’m worried about is for us to have the right facilities that can boost the sport of cycling.
“We have over the years been crying over the velodrome here that has not been utilized. What we have here is what other nations are looking for but we use ours as packing lot. We need to get it ready for UCI accreditation so that we can start hosting national and international competitions,” he said.