Exclusive Interview / Mohammed Belmahi (Cycling/Morocco): « The national team has stamped its authority in Africa »
What lessons can you draw from this tour?
I can draw a positive note especially the fact that the Moroccan national team stamped its authority at the African level. I am satisfied because the Moroccan cyclists proved their worth in the race. Morocco won several jerseys, that of the best climber: Tarek Chaoufi, that of the best African:Adil Djelloul and especially that of the best youth:Reda Aadel.
Five Africans finished in the top 10, what does that mean to you?
It is a tour that gives the opportunity to Africans, not only Moroccans, to compete with professionals. African cyclists are particularly faced with visa problems to travel to Europe thus they have no other option than compete with the others on the continent. The Tropicale Amissa Bongo is therefore an opportunity to weigh up with some heavy weights especially the French. Africa has its own word to say in cycling and will soon say especially Morocco and Erythrea. Africa is developing, though African cyclists still partake in amateur cycling, they will one day arrive if these cyclists have the opportunity of gaining from the European technologies. The UCI helps us a lot, supports and encourages us to vulgarise cycling in Africa but we want more tours and more partnerships countries that have the cycling tradition like France,Italy Spain so that we can equally grow. The UCI is doing a very good job at the African and Asian level, that will help will help balance the atmosphere in the world of cycling.I am therefore very happy because in Morocco, government authorities are highly involved, as well the national Olympic Committee, national enterprises dealing with cycling.: our country has erected the sport to a constitutional level thus there is a renaissance in the world of sport and cycling in particular. I will ask that a continental team be formed with professionals within which there will be Moroccan cyclists. They have stamped their authority for the past three years on the African continent by being ranked the best African team in 2009, 2010, 2011 at the individual as well as team level, and have qualified for the Olympics and the World Championships. We equally have a strong team of youngsters. Our U23 team is capable of doing a great job, it is a team of top class cyclists.
Tell us a bit about Adil Jelloul who finished third at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo.
Adil Djelloul will lose his second spot on the UCI rankings because he has not taken part in several races: the cycling tours of Cameroon, Egypt, and that of Libya which was cancelled. He largely won the jersey for the best African cyclist at the Tropicale even though he was closely watched by the other cyclists, I am very happy because he finished far above Thomas Voeckler, the French cyclists who held the yellow jersey on several occasions at the Tour de France in 2011. But I would have preferred that he closes the gap on the 12 seconds that separated him from the winner because I know he was capable of doing it. That will motivate him for the London 2012 Olympics, it is just a start. I hope he will continue on this note in order have a brilliant performance at the Olympics.
In few words, can you give us your impressions on the best youth at the Tropicale, Réda Aadel?
He is a youngster with a bright future. He is a member of the Moroccan U23 team and was equally ranked amongst the best youths in the Tour of Morocco. He is determined, a sprinter, charming-looking boy who listens to advice. Reda undergoes good training and I am very happy with his contribution to the group, he is a cyclist with a promising future.
Performances are very good three month before Olympics Games?
Of course. With the new coach, Andreas Peterman, winner of Morocco’s Tour 1983, we took German expertise and I hope that we will make performance in London.
What would be your program before the Olympics?
Next on our agenda, we have the Tour du Prince héritier du Maroc, Moulay Hassan ben Mohammed but equally tours in Austria,Ireland and in Germany. The only difficulty that we face is that our calendar is not similar to that of the Europeans. When our season ends, theirs is instead starting, so we have modified our calendar. This modification has yielded fruits in six races and was that was confirmed by the African rankings for the month of April as Morocco is still first with 673 points ahead of South Africa with 513 points. We are ahead of continental teams like MTN Qhubeka (ndlr, South African team), that can participate in races in Europe which enables them grab more points than us… My wish is that our team finishes first in the team category as well as the individual level.