Mekseb Debesay experienced the fright of his life. The 24-year-old pro cyclist from Eritrea drove hopelessly lost in the race in the Flemish Ardennes and finally staggered, until late in the evening, after 21 hours back to his squad in the riders’ hotel in Roeselare.
“It’s an amazing story,” Pierre Heynderickx team leader of Dimension Data said. “He rode his first race in Flanders. He came behind in a group that decided, twenty kilometers from the finish, to take back roads to Harelbeke. Debesay was afraid of getting lost and decided to follow the arrows of the course to come to the finish in Harelbeke. Unfortunately, he strayed from the right path. At one time he had 226 kilometers on his counter, while the race was only 200 kilometers. But Harelbeke he did not find.”
“Eventually he desperately asked a tourist to help him. Please, how I can come in Harelbeke?, he stammered. The man suggested that they would ride together to his home in Lierde. He let him take a shower, gave him fresh clothes and offered the hungry rider food. Meanwhile we were very worried as a team. I already informed the police, the jury of the UCI and the organization, but no one had the slightest trace of him. Until suddenly the redeeming phone at the Mercure Hotel in Roeselare took away our fear”.