Mekseb Debesay forced to rely on kindness of strangers for food and fresh clothes after taking a wrong turn during Belgian one-day race

Eritrean Mekseb Debesay of team Dimension Data lost his way in the E3 Harelbeke in Belgium yesterday, spent 15 hours on the road and resorted to a stranger’s help for food, shower and clean clothes.

Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski won the one-day WorldTour race ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff). Sky’s Ian Stannard attacked the chase group to take third place.

Meanwhile Debesay, 24, wandered the Flemish back roads in desperation.

“It’s an amazing story,” team sports director, Pierre Heynderickx told Het Nieuwsblad newspaper. “He fell behind a small group that decided to take back roads to Harelbeke around 20 kilometres from the finish. Debesay was afraid of becoming lost and decided to follow the course arrows to get to the finish. Unfortunately, he wandered from the correct path.”

>>> Michal Kwiatkowski: I know how hard it is for Peter Sagan in the rainbow jersey

Debesay won the Tour d’Algérie and the Tour of Eritrea before signing with Dimension Data ahead of 2016. The E3 Harelbeke marked his first WorldTour race, and it was one he will not forget.

He reached 206 kilometres on his computer, the race distance, but still had not arrived in Harelbeke. He turned to one of the many fans on bicycles riding along the same roads.

“‘Please, where’s Harelbeke?’ he said. That man suggested that they should go together to his home in Lierde,” Heynderickx added. “He let him take a shower, gave him fresh clothes and offered food to our hungry rider.”

Watch: Sky Sports Director on Kwiatkowski’s win


His team left for the Mercure Hotel in Roeselare, but were worried about their last man. Heynderickx called the police, the UCI’s race jury and the organisers.

“No one had any idea where he was. Then, suddenly, we received a phone call.”

Debesay covered around 240 kilometres and, 15 hours after he left, returned to the team’s hotel base in Roeselare.

  • FPCyclist

    This sounds like one of those great stories from 1910 or something.

  • DreadFool

    shortcut to asylum?

  • Knees of Steel

    Thanks to the amazing Belgian’s, he made it back safely. By the way ~~ I know how fun it can be getting lost on the cobbled back roads of Belgium,on bike.

  • poisonjunction

    You’re right, the article reports another group took a short cut back, but he followed the course arrows as he didn’t want to go off course, but missed his way.

  • llos25

    Super advert for cyclists.

  • steven mclean

    He tried to ride back streets to the finish instead of the broom wagon.

  • disqus_0uwAXh0aNM

    Good to see we cyclists take care of each other. One world, two wheels.

  • David Palmer

    The broom-wagon didn’t do a good job. I thought it was supposed to stay behind the last rider!