• Kudus is the best young rider in Oman but can he win the overall? (Getty)Source: Getty
Merhawi Kudus couldn't walk properly for months after crashing out of the Vuelta a España last year but is determined to return and fight for a stage win that injury maybe cheated him of.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
17 Feb 2018 - 12:46 PM 

The Eritrean climber fractured his ankle and was left bloodied when he fell at high-speed on stage seven, a couple of days after finishing one place shy of line honours in Alcossebre.

"I had an ankle fracture so for two months I couldn't walk," Kudus said. "It's hard to come back after five months. When I came back last week it gave me good motivation. Everything is fixed and I'm ready now for the season."

Kudus (Dimension Data) returned to racing for the first time since the crash at the Tour of Valencia earlier this month where he placed 16th overall.

The 24-year-old is currently competing at the Tour of Oman and is an outside favourite for today's penultimate queen stage to Green Mountain, and by extension, the overall podium having been in the mix all week.

He was fifth on the climb last year and went on to claim the best young rider jersey and fourth on general classification, which could be matched if not improved today.

He sits 10th overall at the same deficit as Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) - both 33 seconds in arrears of race leader Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), who has ruled out a title bid.

"We haven't got any firm race plan because Green Mountain is, whoever has good legs on the end of the climb must go. But I have good teammates around me so for sure I will do something with them," he said.

Kudus was raised in Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea, which at 2325m altitude makes for handy training ground when he is not at his Europe base in Lucca, Italy.

He is bilingual in English and his native Tigrinya, a product of the UCI's World Cycling Centre in Switzerland and a staple of incarnations of Dimension Data since 2014.

Notably, Kudus is no slouch as results, his rise to the pro ranks and five career appearances across Grand Tours in Italy, France and Spain attest.

"Cycling in my country, in the capital city, is the first sport. It's so popular and really famous. We have a local race every Sunday and we have local teams," he explained.

"When I went to school I would go by bike and had some competitions with my classmates, just riding to school."

The elementary introduction to the sport has ultimately led to a 2018 race schedule set to include the Vuelta where Kudus is determined for one thing.

"The first goal is for the stage. When I see last year my performance, especially in Vuelta, it was really good. I'm progressing step by step, not really fast but still I'm progressing.

"Last year definitely in the Vuelta, when I came close to the stage winner [second to Alexey Lutsenko], is my best result so far."