Brent Copeland Talks African Cycling

Brent is the General Manager of Team Jayco AlUla, an Australian World Tour Team

Team Africa Rising’s European Correspondent hit the first few stages of this year’s Tour de France and interviewed one of the most tenured General Managers in the business, Brent Copeland, about the state of African Cycling.

Team Jayco AlUla fields two Ethiopian cyclists, the veteran Tsgabu Grmay and newcomer Hagos Berhe. Tsgabu talked about how important Brent was to his career in a recent podcast on Supersapiens with Xylon Van Eyck. Brent nurtured Tsgabu’s talent and now is bringing along one of the top Ethiopian cyclists who undoubtedly has a Grand Tour talent!

Brent was asked his take on the state of African cycling.

Brent Copeland General Manager of Team Jayco AlUla

Transcript from Audio: What is the State of African Cycling?

“I think it’s really good. It obviously can be better, like a lot of other nationalities suffering at the moment, but in general, African cycling is doing extremely well. From back in the day when I helped Doug Ryder start MTN in Europe in 2013 up until today, you see more and more African riders riding, not the Tour dd France, not just riding the Tour de France, but winning stages. Now you have two incredibly gift athletes like Tsgabu and Hagos. We are really privileged to be working with them. They’re doing a great job.”

“Hagos has got this incredible talent which we don’t even know how far he can go with it. He surprised us this year. He started out with an unlucky crash in Valencia in Spain. A bit of a concussion took him out for a good couple of months. Our medical staff didn’t want him to start again. He came back and rode his first race at the Tour of Switzerland. He was one of only a few riders that could actually follow Evanpoel. That just shows what kind of talent he is. The margin of improvement is huge. Besides the talent it’s just great to have him on the team and to be working with African riders.”

Handling the additional administration of African and other foreign cyclists

Transcript: Unique Challenges Not Just in African Cycling

We have the same issues. I think every team has the same issues. It’s not just African riders. We have the same issues with AUS riders. They need visas to come in. We now have the issue with UK riders and UK staff. They can only do 90 days of work in the European Union. It’s not just African riders. We do have a logistics office that looks over this, and they support all the riders and staff with this administration issue. And it’s not easy because it’s at a political level. It’s easy just to pass it on to the UCI and have let UCI sort it out. I don’t think it’s the UCI’s responsibility.

I think each team that decides to bring a rider on from whatever nationality you’ve got to go out of your way to make sure their documentation is in place for them to be a self-employed or an employed athlete of the team. That’s not easy. Each country has its different political rules and regulations we have to abide to. Which is not easy, but it’s part of the job, and if it were easy everyone would be doing it. We go out of our way to support them in the best way possible.

Ethiopian Phenom Hagos Berhe

Transcript: New Talent in African Cycling

Team Africa Rising asked Brent about the incredible performance of Jayco’s newest rider, Hagos Berhe. Hagos finished second in Stage 5 of the Tour of Austria. He also finished second in the young rider competition. Is Hagos ready for his first Grand Tour?

“Absolutely, this kid is talented not only on the bike but off the bike. Incredible attitude. Incredible mindset. He knows how to race a bike. Hagos sits in the peloton in a good place and knows how to read the race. And this we saw already last year at Valle d’Aosta U23. We saw at Lombardy U23. He’s already got that talent and when you’ve got that already you’re already 2-3 years down the line compared with the other new riders coming on board. For sure we’ll see him in a grand tour sooner rather than later.”

With more teams like Team Jayco AlUla and managers like Brent Copeland, more opportunities will come available for African cyclists. Team Jayco and our previously featured interview with Intermarché, are two teams leading the way towards integrating the men’s professional peloton with some of the best talent on the African continent.