As part of our focus on diversity in the pro peloton, we talked with Fatima Zahra El Hayani Reza (24) of the Arkea Pro Cycling Team. Thanks to Jeremy Ford, Team Africa Rising for bringing this story to us.

Fatima has been racing bikes for over four years, with her first major race recorded on ProCyclingStats as representing Morocco at the African Continental Championships in 2016, hosted by Morocco. She took 10th place in the ITT.

2020 represents her first year of racing on a pro team, Team Arkea, whom she proudly represents in her Moroccan national champion jersey. She has not had a lot of race time in the last 12 months or so and the disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic has hindered her training and development, unfortunately.

We caught up with Fatima here in Nice after she took part in the 2020 La Course women’s race organised by the Tour de France. Only 62 of the 137 starters managed to finish the race but she was happy with her OTL as this still means she finished the race among many of the world’s top female cyclists.

The Q&A video clip is in French. For non-French speakers, you can find the transcript of the questions and answers below:

Q: “Hi Fatima, good to meet you. It was great to see you racing yesterday in your Morocco national champion jersey. How was the race for you?”

A: Thank you very much, hello everyone, I am very happy to be racing with champions. Well the race yesterday for me went ok, my legs were not great so I was not able to follow the speed of the top contenders, I was not warmed up enough. But it went well in the peloton, we tried to catch the front group but we were unable to. The race went well there were not many crashes and windy roads. I am happy for myself and for Morocco because I was racing with the best in the world. I hope I can give an example to all the girls in Africa so that they get out and ride.

Q: “You were one of only two women from Africa in the race. What more do you think can, or should, be done to increase the representation from Africa in professional cycling?”

A: The first thing is that we have to work hard but in Africa, it is different than Europe. In Europe, the women are free in Africa we are not. It is the truth that we are not very free and there is not enough security for us. Now the UCI is implementing a plan to protect the women which is a very good plan. Someone informed me of this, it is good Mme Marion, it is very very good for the women so that we can continue to race internationally.

Q:  So for example where you live in Brittany you can go ride for 5 hrs by yourself and in Morocco that is not possible?

A: Yes it is not like in France it is much different, it is that is just the way it is. Even on the road, we have problems so I ask those responsible and in charge to do a lot of camps for women for their future in cycling at the top level.

Marion: Ok thank you very much and have a good racing season.

Fatima: thank you very much

We wish Fatima all the best for the rest of 2020.

Many thanks also to our good friend, the multi-Olympic and World Championship award winner Marion Clignet for helping with our interview. Marion is currently the Co-President of the AFCC (l’Association Française des Coureures Cyclistes) and a passionate advocate for women’s cycling worldwide.

If you want to support Fatima or follow her career, please do find her on social media on the below:

Twitter: @ArkeaProCyclingTeam

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Fatima-Zahra-El-Hayani-116450726564260