Live Blog: Trhas Teklehaimanot Tesfay

Welcome to our live blog to chart the progress of the #TeamTrhas project in London (England), on which we are working with the West London Welcome refugee center, and many of our friends and contacts in the cycling industry.

14 May: After the highly positive experience of the Rapha Lincoln GP at the weekend, Trhas returned to racing at the Miche West Thames Racing league, in Hillingdon (West London). We are very happy to share that her fitness is clearly improving and after another hard race, she took her first ever podium – taking second in the race: Her smile really sums up her happiness! The large box of cherry & almond CNP Protein Flapjacks she won will be put to good use for sure…

Trhas celebrates her second place, alongside winner Sarinie Yating Ning, and third placed Philippa Mitchell.

12 May: Well wow. Just wow. At 0900 the women’s race started. For whatever reason, Trhas started the race from the very back of a c.120 rider start. This did not bode well, with many of our contacts saying positioning ahead of the gruelling iconic ‘Michaelgate’ climb. However, our source on the course called us to say that by the end of lap one, Trhas had moved up 60-70 places and was travelling very well. What followed was beyond our wildest hopes and dreams. Trhas joined the lead group and stayed with them comfortably for 6 or so laps, at a gruelling pace. At this point her lack of racing fitness started to kick in and she dropped back, with several others, to a chase group with which she stayed for several laps. As the DNF count hit over 40 of the original field, we were overjoyed when Trhas came over the finish line with a group of some top female riders, coming in #57 overall. Talking to Trhas after the event, she said:

“I like longer races like the Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix, but it was very hard because I didn’t recently do any long intervals, and I have been out of big races for a long time, but hopefully I will be back to my real performance step by step!”

This achievement cannot be under-stated with the lack of preparation she has truly had. This shows her potential and many involved in the #TeamTrhas project have received calls and messages praising her performance and asking about her. Well done TT! A full race report is available on The British Continental website HERE and thanks to Dave Dodge Photography for the great images of Trhas racing.

Trhas blasting up the Michaelgate with her fellow competitors (Image Credit: PelotonPix / Dave Dodge Photography)

11 May: Trhas travelled today from London to Lincoln by the team mechanic of the DAS-Hutchinson-Brother race team, to get prepared for Sunday’s Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix. This race is probably one of the most high profile races in the UK, and the majority of female riders will be on professional teams, and Elite/1/2 category riders. Trhas is looking forward to the race, and understands it will probably be the toughest race of her career to date. She went on a course recon with Charlotte Hodgkins Byrne to get to know this iconic street circuit. Good luck tomorrow Trhas!

Trhas on a recon of the Lincoln GP course with Charlotte Hodgkins Byrne (Team DAS-Hutchinson-Brother UK)

9 May: Very exciting day today on the PR side of the #TeamTrhas project! We have been working closely with the brilliant editorial team at Cycling Weekly, the world’s oldest cycling publication, to share Trhas’ story and latest updates, and we are incredibly proud to see her have her own double-page spread in the magazine today! The piece features quotes from Trhas, her mentor/coach Alice Lethbridge, our CEO Kimberly Coats and a picture of Trhas recently meeting the President of The Pedal Club (see 24 April below). She is so happy that our friends at Zwift, Vittoria, the UCI World Cycling Centre, the DAS-Hutchinson-Brother race team, Personal Bike Fit, Kingston Wheelers CC and many more are helping her! Great to see Kingston Wheelers CC (KWCC) also get some extra kudos today from none other than British Cycling, in their Member Newsletter, for their support of Trhas as well (and a shout out to our blog!)

7 May: Trhas was out racing again at the Hillingon Circuit tonight. At 50kg, this is not really her sweet-spot when it comes to bike racing, but the skills, fitness, experience and being part of the UK women’s racing scene are all hugely adding to her abilities and motivation. Photographer Nate Rawsthorne took some great images in the evening sunshine as the ladies set a relentless pace, here are some good ones:

Trhas setting the pace at Round 4 of the Women’s Series at Hillingdon Circuit

4 May: Today was a special day emotionally for Trhas, when she went to collect her UCI WCC Scott bike from the secure location where it lives, there was a package waiting for her from British Cycling. She opened it with happiness, to find inside all the details of her membership and her official race licence! These moments of being part of something, being accepted, for a young woman still seeking asylum and without the ability to plan any kind of future, are golden. We hope you can see the true joy in her smile!

Trhas receives her offocial hardcopy of her British Cycling racing licence. A great moment!

30 April: Well what a difference proper training, riding, and nutrition can make. Trhas took part in her second outing in the Miche West Thames League Series at the Hillingdon Circuit in West London, and raced hard, attacking several times, tried to enthuse the peloton to chase a lone breakaway, and ended up sprinting with three others off the front and took 4th place! From last to fourth in a week. Her motivation and energy levels are truly much much higher than before, and she is enjoying the challenges that the shorter circuit races bring: “I have long power so this race is hard for me, I need short power! Next week, maybe podium.” We truly love her resolve and focus. We move onto her first appearance in the Hub Velo and 6AM Cycling Spring Crit Series, this Saturday at Redbridge Cycling Centre, East London.

A Very happy Trhas with her improved performance!

29 April: Trhas has been down to Zwift HQ in London today for an absolutely monster training session, bashing out 107km in just shy of 4 hours on the machine, with over 1600m of climbing – the ‘Mega Pretzel’ as it is called. We are so impressed with her dedication to getting back to form…

A huge effort at Zwift today for Trhas – 107km in a 4-hour session. Ride On!

27 April: So here we are, the big unveil! We are happy to share that the UCI have agreed Trhas can train in their World Cycling Centre Team colours across 2024 again, after her time with the team back in 2020. They have gone one step further and kindly supplied Trhas with a beautiful Scott Addict race bike, fully loaded with Shimano-Road#Di2, LOOK Cycle pedals, Vittoria tyres (and our long-term friends at Vittoria also upgraded them to the new Corsa Pro Graphene tyres!) as well as full WCC Team kit, helmet, glasses, shoes and spare wheels!

We are so happy for her! She then headed to our friend Spencer at Personal Bikefit for a fitting to get her position and shoes dialled-in, ahead of training and racing over the coming weeks. Many thanks indeed to everyone involved in this project so far, the cycling world has been simply fantastic. Lots more to come as she gets her legs and lungs back up to race pace!

24 April: Today was another ground-breaking moment in Trhas’ story. She was invited as a special guest to attend the members’ lunch of The Pedal Club. The Pedal Club was founded in 1941 in the UK by a group of cycling journalists and officials, wishing to meet and exchange diverse views. This wish resulted in the creation of a lively member monthly lunch. The objective, which still remains, is to meet informally to discuss cycling topics and for prominent public people and others to address The Club. The members were truly welcoming and moved by Trhas’ story. The other special guest for the lunch was none other than Jon Dutton, CEO of British Cycling, who was celebrating his one year anniversary in his role. Trhas was in esteemed company indeed. The members kindly held a collection to go towards Trhas’ fund and over £800 was raised! Trhas also received a Pedal Club race jersey, a rare and to be treasured gift, and a bag of high quality racing clothing was also donated to be given to a suitable Africa Rising project by one of the members. We truly thank all members of this group for their kindness, support and interest in her story. Trhas’ mentor Alice Lethbridge has also been a honourable guest at their members’ lunch, cycling truly is a small but hugely inclusive community.

23 April: Today was a big day: Tonight Trhas will take part in her first race here on British soil, a round of the Miche West Thames League circuit racing, organised by West Drayton MBC. She will be attending with her mentor Alice and we wish her safe passage and success as she gets back into competitive cycling. Our good friend Keith McRae (see below) will be attending the event also, and is kindly supplying her with some gels, bars and energy mix. Thank you Keith! Trhas was comfortable in the race and stayed with the group well until the last lap, when a big attack went and she didn’t have the energy to go again but finished the race. After seven months with no races, poor nutrition and not much competitive training, she has a way to go but was extremely happy and motivated to be back at a race!

Trhas’ first ever race on UK soil! (Pic credit: Keith McRae)

22 April: We are most excited to hear from the leadership team at the Kingston Wheelers CC (KWCC) club (London, England), who have kindly agreed to grant Trhas membership of their illustrious club! KWCC are celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2024, one of the UK’s most well-known club groups, with many members. Trhas will race some of her forthcoming races on the KWCC club team.

21 April: Trhas attended the ‘Dave Peck Women’s Road Race’ in Virginia Water today, to watch and understand the type of racing available here in the UK, ahead of her debut racing there this week. This race is run by Twickenham CC, in memory of their former club chairman. At the race, Trhas met Simon Howes, the Team Principal of the DAS-hutchinson-Brother UK women’s continental cycling team, who recently kindly helped secure Trhas’ current road bike and equipment earlier in the year.

Trhas also met Alice Lethbridge who has now agreed to mentor her and they will begin racing together from this week. We are most excited to have Alice as part of Trhas’ support team in the UK. Alice is a hardcore cyclist with many records and achievements, including breaking – and subsequently extending – the 12-hour time trial record, formerly held by the legendary Beryl Burton and a record that had stood for 50 years! We hope she will help Trhas become the top cyclist of which she dreams of becoming.

Trhas and Alice at the Twickenham CC Dave Peck Memorial British Cup Race (Image Credit: PelotonPix / Dave Dodge Photography)

20 April: After a great discussion with our long-term friend Keith McRae, the Head Sports Director of Team Global 6 United, last night, he introduces us to a very experienced UK female rider who is based near to Trhas’s hostel, and agrees to train with her, and take her to several races over the coming months. Trhas truly is now looking like having the support structure around her to train and develop properly! We cannot overstate how amazing the cycling community is being! More soon…

18 April: Our European representative heads to Switzerland for the day to meet with senior UCI officials at the World Cycling Centre to discuss Trhas’ situation, possible opportunities and help with equipment. All goes very well and significant plans are discussed and agreed. All to be revealed soon….

The UCI’s stunning HQ in Aigle (Switzerland)

18 April: British Cycling contact us to confirm that Trhas’ race license has been approved. Due to her race history and results, she has been upgraded to a Category 3 license, allowing her to race any level in the UK. Plans are immediately put in place to identify and enter her in forthcoming races.

The BBC London piece also appears and is played all day across the BBC’s platforms. Full clip below:

16 April: The BBC London team head to Hammersmith to interview Trhas, as well as interviewing Team Africa Rising’s CEO (Kimberly Coats) for a major piece to be broadcast on 18 April, across their channels.

Trhas spends the afternoon fllming and interviewing with the BBC London team. They share some of the photos with us.

15 April: Andy Slaughter MP (Hammersmith, Labour) raises a question in the UK’s House of Commons about Trhas’ situation, and the poor food and conditions she is experiencing in the refugee hostel in which she is staying. The UK’s Home Secretary agrees to look into her case. You can watch the full question and answer HERE (go to 14:38:20)

Andy Slaughter MP talks about Trhas Teklehaimanot Tesfay in the House of Commons

12 April: We have been discussing Trhas’ situation with our long-term contacts at the UCI, in the World Cycling Centre team, with whom Trhas trained and raced successfully in 2020 in South Africa. They are open to discussing ways they can help, and happily supply her UCI race license details and additional information they have on file. We review her ProCyclingStats profile also, and verify this has all her historical race information. We hope to add some more results to this record in 2024…

Trhas’ updated ProCyclingStats record, showing her status as reigning Women’s Road and ITT Champion of Ethiopia

10 April: Our UK representative opens discussions with British Cycling to discuss organising a race license for Trhas, to enable her to take part in competitions in the UK. Initial feedback is positive. We hope this will work out, as it will be a major step forward for her.

9 April: Zwift invite Trhas to visit their studio and get organised. We arrange her license and account, work with her to get her avatar how she would like it, and she tries a 40 minute FTP test for the first time. After 6 months of poor nutrition, inconsistent training, Trhas still bashes out a 3.8W/Kg session which all there feel is an excellent base level to work from. Getting her to pro level of 4.5-5.5W/Kg feels like it is eminently achievable with good training and, hopefully, racing soon. Kimberly (our CEO) is in touch with Kate Veronneau (Director of Women’s Strategy) on the project, and they are most pleased to be involved! (Update 18 April: Trhas has now completed three Zwift rides, is quickly getting to grips with the platform, and is really enjoying riding virtually.)

Trhas starts her Zwift career with some strong performances.

7 April: Journalists from various divisions of the BBC, and other media outlets globally, have been getting in touch with us due to the Guardian article. We set up an interview with BBC London, to meet Trhas, film her and talk about what she hopes will happen in the UK.

6 April: We get in touch with our brilliant friends at Zwift and they are keen to help Trhas get training and racing online. We agree that she can visit Zwift’s UK HQ during the week and use their cycling studio. This is hugely generous, and also gives Trhas access to fellow female riders to ride with at Zwift, and outside.

5 April: The public’s reaction to The Guardian piece has been overwhelming, and the crowdfunding account set up by WLW hits £3,500! This funding will be used to ensure Trhas has food, clothing, nutrition and for cycling related expenses. We have received many inbounds from enthusiastic folk offering help, funds and training buddies. Trhas also secures a Legal Aid lawyer from the law firm Wilson’s from the piece, a vital part of her UK asylum process. Things are looking up!

4 April: Trhas has been interviewed in the last couple of days by Diane Taylor of The Guardian about her situation, her hopes and dreams. The interview is then published today. Full article HERE

Diane Taylor’s piece on Trhas (The Guardian. 4 April 2024)

2 April: After discussions with Trhas about what she needs, we ordered a track pump, a mini-pump, tube repair kits, chain lube and tools, and a pile of inner tubes for her training bike, from our friends Park Tool and Vittoria respectively (via Madison, their UK distributor) to keep her training and riding going well. We start to reach out to our connections in cycling to see how we can help her. The team at the Ford RideLondon event have already kindly offered a free place in the Ford RideLondon-Essex 100, taking place on 26 May. This is one of the UK’s/London’s biggest cycling events, seeing many thousands of riders take on a car-free 100-mile route.

27 March 2024: Our Team Africa Rising (TAR) representative in Europe is contacted by a connection in the cycling industry, with whom the brilliant team at the West London Welcome (WLW) – a refugee centre in the west of London – had been in touch to try and secure some cycling equipment. Trhas had been coming to their centre for a few months and by chance someone who spoke Tigrinya had worked out that she was a cyclist, and on further discussion, found out she was the reigning national women’s road race, and ITT champion of Ethiopia! She has been working and training almost every day.

Previous to this, WLW had recently launched an (ongoing) fundraising campaign on localgiving with multiple donors, allowing them to purchase the Tifosi bicycle (and further equipment) which appears in the pictures above. The brilliant Spencer Wilson (Founder of the Personal Bike Fit store in Kensington) kindly fitted Trhas to this bike for free to enable her to train properly.