Date: Tuesday, 14 September 2021
EF Education-NIPPO is proud to announce the signing of Merhawi Kudus. The Eritrean brings his climbing expertise to the team’s roster.
“I am a climber,” Kudus says. “I can climb for GC or I can climb to support someone for GC, but I am definitely a climber,” he laughs. Hailing from the Eritrean capital of Asmara, which sits at over 2,000 meters elevation, perhaps it’s no surprise he’s so comfortable in the mountains.
“I like to ride because it’s so common, so popular where I’m from, it’s just the obvious thing to do,” Kudus says. Not only is cycling a vital form of transportation in Eritrea, it’s also the country’s most popular sport with races shutting down streets in the capital city most weekends. “My cousin was a local amateur rider,” he recalls. “I went to see him in races and I looked up to him.”
Years later, Kudus is now the rider that everyone looks up to.
His palmares are impressive – a slew of GC podiums and stage results in races from Asia to Africa to Europe – but the 27-year-old believes he has more to give. “I think this team is the right place to explore my full potential,” he says. “Here, I can achieve more, but I cannot do it alone. With teamwork you can achieve more and go further than you imagine and I have always seen strong teamwork within EF. I believe in the team’s spirit.”
“He’s a rider I was looking at for a long time and the pieces fell together,” says team CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “I’m really excited to have him on the team. He really wanted to be on this team and that’s something that really means a lot to me when somebody says ‘this is the team I want to be at because I feel like you guys are the ones that are going to take me furthest in my career.’ That’s music to my ears especially when I hear that from a guy like him because he’s had to break his way into cycling the tough way.”
Kudus is an ideal fit with the team’s ethos. “I enjoy meeting people from different cultures,” he explains. “Yes, I like to ride and train hard and race and all the stuff that is part of the job, but with that comes laughing and traveling and enjoying which I like to share with new people.”
Looking ahead to the 2022 season, Vaughters envisions a clear path for the Eritrean. “I see him focused on mountain jerseys and stage wins,” says Vaughters. He can also do well in week-long stage races. And he’ll be great to help out guys that have GC ambitions. He’s a rider that can make that critical group of 20 to 30 riders in the mountains and be there to support.”
Kudus is open to new goals and challenges. “I want to support the team and also ride for myself, whatever that looks like,” he says. While he hasn’t yet decided which races he will target next season, he knows his ultimate goal. “A stage victory in the Tour de France, that is the ultimate dream.”
Since joining the school mountain biking team as a 14-year-old, Kudus has raced all over the world and been away from home for much of his life. While that can be hard, he doesn’t hesitate to say what makes it worth the sacrifice. “Cycling is my community, no matter where I am,” he says.