Like every other aspect of national life that is predicated on improvisation instead of pro-activeness, the city of Douala had its traffic circulation arteries blocked Wednesday, January 31, almost rendering commuters helpless owing to absence of contingency arrangements for a hitch-free kickoff of the U23 international cycling tour.
The race reserved for under-23 cyclists brought together 17 teams from 15 countries although it was a difficult pill to swallow for denizens in Douala as traffic was halted on all major roads in the city to give way for the race.
Major axis in town like the Boulevard de la Republique in Akwa, École Publique, Feu Rouge Bessengue, Carrefour Agip, Ndokoti and Ange Raphaël were all blocked as the 147 km race flagged off from Limbe reached the city.
This left workers, traders and businessmen frustrated as they trekked for long distances to get to their houses.
“I was stuck in Ndokotti for over two hours because there were free circulation for vehicles and bikes. Even the pedestrian path was blocked by people who came to watch as spectators so it was even difficult walking on foot,” a Douala resident Collins Tenkeu, told The Rambler.
“The Government needs to choose a lane out of town when next they want to organize such a competition to avoid slowing down activities in town. It is really frustrating to lose a whole day because of a race which is bringing no financial benefits to us,” another resident in Douala said.
Others, however, preferred to blame the situation on the Douala City Council for failing to provide adequate secondary roads in the city that could help decongest traffic when such instances present themselves.
By 6:00pm local time, the race had wrapped up but the town remained caught in the traffic web as bike riders took advantage to make brisk business with exorbitant fares.
For two days spent in Douala by the caravan, it was hell on earth for denizens with the traffic under the grueling sun. By 2pm when the caravan entered into town from the Southwest Region, the city had been cut into two as it had become impossible to cross on the Wouri Bridge.
Talking about the race proper, the first lap saw foreigners totally dominate the lane as Eritrea’s Nathaneal Mebrahton emerged winner in 2h 25’24. He was 11 minutes clear of his compatriot Selemun Zemenses, while Morocco’s Chokri El Mehdi finished a close third. Surprisingly, the winner of the Tropical Amissa Bongo in Gabon, Rwanda’s Areruya Joseph could only settle for fourth place.
The first Cameroonian, Ismael Voukeng, could only manage at the fifteenth place as it was a poor show in a harsh weather that forced many riders to abandon the race while others faced mechanical problems.
The second lap of the race was equally won by an Eritrean Daniel Habtemchael finishing ahead of Rwandan Jean Paul Rene Ukinwabo by sprint on the finish line. The podium was completed by Gregory Rougier-Lagane from the Mauritius Island.
The best team of the competition also qualifies for the “coupe de l’avenir” to take place in France next year.
By Francis Ajumane