Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chaoufi - People thought I lied about Euskaltel move

Tarik Chaoufi will be the first Moroccan ever to ride for a European team when he dons the orange jersey of Euskaltel next year. For his compatriots, a Moroccan being signed by a WorldTour team sounded more like a joke than the truth. After having a translator from Kuwait come over to the team's training camp in Derio yesterday to aid his integration into the team, Chaoufi gave his first interview that can be read in today's Deia and Noticias de Gipuzkoa. Here, he speaks of how no one believed him when he announced he was going to join the world elite.

"People said I was lying", he revealed. "They said it wasn't possible that a European team had contacted me. My mother was happy for me, though, and told me she would come up with the money if I needed it.

"I remember I couldn't sleep the night I got the call from Euskaltel. I thought that this couldn't possibly be happening. How could a European team sign me? I couldn't believe it. The head of the national team brought me the news. And, for sure, I knew about Euskaltel - I'd watched them in the Tour. In the Maghreb (the region he hails from), Samuel Sánchez is very famous because of what he's achieved in that race, but also because he's the Olympic champion."

As many an athlete from the African country, the 26-year-old from Azrou started out as a runner. Azrou is at 1400 metres of altitude, so no prizes for guessing what kind of rider Chaoufi regards himself as.

"I'm a climber", he confirmed. "I like the mountains - I've climbed them since I was a little kid. I always train in the mountains. For a kid living in Azrou, you spend your time studying, doing sports, helping out your parents. I decided to quit school at 16 because I wanted to become a cyclist. I've always liked the bike, and back then you had to travel a lot in order to compete. To Casablance, to Agadir... I couldn't combine riding with my studies, so I opted for the bike.

"My father died when I was a kid - I can't remember him. But my mum encouraged me to do it (give cycling a go). She always supports me. Right from the beginning she was always urging me to do races. I got my first bike from my uncle, who lives in France. That was a mountain bike, but my mum bought me my first road bike. She's got a shop that sells baby clothes in Azrou, and the shop's doing well. She also provided me with the money I needed to register for races.

"As a kid, I dreamed of being like Armstrong, Ullrich, Beloki... As there was no electricity, TV or anything in Azrou, I used to take my bike to a cafeteria in a village nearby to see them ride the Tour. Ten years ago, there was no electricity in my small home town. We still don't have internet! All the lights therefore amazed me when I first got here (Spain). The roads as well - all that."

As a muslim, the winner of the UCI African Tour rankings naturally celebrates Ramadan. He doesn't think it will affect his racing all that much though.

"I'm muslim, but I'm not very religious - I haven't prayed once since I came to the Basque Country! I don't eat pork, but that's also the only thing I don't eat. I have no problem with the rest of the food. As I said, I'm not very strict on it. But I do celebrate Ramadan. In Morocco there are no races on during the month of Ramadan, but I still have to keep training. What I'll do if a race in Europe coincides with Ramadan? Hm, I don't know. I'll do what the team tells me to do. But if I have to race, I don't think I'll do it (Ramadan) and I'll ride instead - if not, it would be very complicated."

During the first few days of the team's training camp in Derio, which wraps up today, Chaoufi struggled to communicate as he only speaks Arab and only understands a bit of French. After his translator joined him though, he sat down with Basque TV channel Eitb for a short interview. Watch it below:

  Photo: Gabon review


Nick said...

Chaoufi is the most intriguing of the new signings. I am curious and excited to see what he can do on the roads.

In regards to Muslims and cycling, is he the first in the pro ranks? Said Haddou is the only other one I can think of that could potentially be Muslim (based on the name)

azanca02 said...

Well he def. comes from a humble back ground. That is good for the team. It does not seem that he has ever been given the best equipment, coaches, etc. He has earned the right to be there through hard work and dedication.

Colin said...

Good luck to all the new lads in orange

Magnus said...

Nick, I think Mehdi Sohrabi and Anuar Manan at least are Muslims. I don't think either of the Haddou brothers are, but I might be wrong!

Josh Buehner said...

Great writeup. i too am very interested in this guy. Looks like he's got some fire in his belly.

Also, if things start to turn sour for the new Euskies, look for the 'Moro' to catch the brunt of the heat unfortunately.

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