Organised in Switzerland as an exception due to the conflict in Afghanistan, the Women’s Road Championships of Afghanistan saw 50 refugee athletes, now living in different countries across Europe, as well as in Singapore and in Canada, come together for their National Championships starting and finishing at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle.
After a neutral start to leave the city of Aigle, the race got underway in earnest with a lead group of six quickly forming. On the first climb to the village of Yvorne, two of the riders, Masomah Ali Zada – who competed in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as part of the International Olympic Committee’s Refugee Team - and Arezo Sarwari were distanced. By the time the leaders had descended from Yvorne, Fariba Hashimi and her older sister Yulduz were alone at the front.
The sisters worked together for the remainder of the 57km race, consistently increasing their lead on their two chasers, Nooria Mohammadi and Zahra Rezayee. With 5km to go, the Hashimi sisters had a five-minute lead on their two closest rivals and it was just a question of which member of the family would become National Champion.
In the sprint to the finish, it was Fariba who got the better of her old older sister to take the gold medal, both finishing in a time of 1:32:40: “I didn’t think I would win, I thought it would be my sister,” said the new National Champion of Afghanistan.
Her sister added: “We talked to each other during the race and we worked together which is why we could stay so far ahead.”
The bronze medal went to Zahra Rezayee, who gained a few seconds’ advantage on Mohammadi coming off a roundabout 500m from the finish. The two women crossed the line six minutes after the gold and silver medallists.
Congratulations to Fariba Hashimi for her win at the 2022 Women's Road Championships of Afghanistan, and to all the riders who fought for that jersey ! pic.twitter.com/Xanbhlx3HQ— World Cycling Centre (@WCC_cycling) October 23, 2022
The Hashimi sisters, Rezayee and Mohammadi all reside in Italy and ride for UCI Women’s Continental Team Valcar - Travel & Service. As they are all Under-23 riders, the podiums for the Women Elite and Women Under-23 category were the same.
Israel Premier Tech Roland from next year
A big surprise for the winning sisters was the offer to join professional team Israel Premier Tech Roland. The offer came from the team’s owner Sylvan Adams who was present in Aigle for the Women’s Road Championships of Afghanistan. Next year, Fariba and Yulduz Hashimi will join the 28-strong team, which has applied to renew its UCI Women's WorldTeam status for 2023.
“This offer is a big surprise for me, and it’s lovely to share that with my sister,” said the National Champion. See you at the Tour de France!”
Happiness further back in the field
Participants, whether up front or at the back of the peloton, expressed pride at having been part of an event organised in Europe in their honour.
The first rider in the Women Elite category to finish was Olympian Masomah Ali Zada, 6th place overall.
“It was more than a competition today,” she said at the finish. “I hope it has sent a message about the rights of women in Afghanistan, and that the world will wake up. I hope the women will get back their rights. We are trying to change things.”
Finishing in 9th position, Wahida Hussaini said: “I am so happy. It has been incredible for me. Last year I did this competition in Afghanistan and this year I could compete in Switzerland. My message to all the women in Afghanistan now is: ‘Stay strong every day’.”
Riding always with the smile… Keep going girls ! pic.twitter.com/btjAf9BpQF— World Cycling Centre (@WCC_cycling) October 23, 2022
The Women’s Road Championships of Afghanistan were part of the continuing efforts of the UCI and its partners to support and assist the Afghan Cycling Federation.
They were organised by the UCI World Cycling Centre, the Afghan Cycling Federation, the organising committee of the Tour du Pays de Vaud and the Commune of Aigle.