Daniel Teklehaimanot
Daniel Teklehaimanot of Eritrea celebrates as he is awarded the polka-dot jersey on the podium after stage six of the 2015 Tour de France Getty Images

In a historic day for the Tour de France, Eritrean Daniel Teklehaimanot has become the first African rider to wear the coveted King of the Mountains jersey on 10 July. Teklehaimanot, aged 26, races with the South African MTN-Qhubeka team.

"I want to hold it until the end in Paris but it's not easy to keep this jersey," said Teklehaimanot. "For one rider, for one day on the podium is enough. I would be happy to keep it just for one day but obviously I would like to keep it for all the races."

Racism in cycling

The Eritrean's triumph has been underscored by a level of racial abuse in the Tour de France and top level bicycle racing.

During the Tour of Austria, it was Eritrean Natnael Berhane who was targeted, who is also a rider with MTN-Qhubeka.

Belarusian Branislau Samoilau, a rider for Pro-Continental team CCC-Sprandi-Polkowice, has been referred to the Union Cycliste Internationale, the sport's governing association, for uttering a racial slur directed towards the African rider.

"Get out of the way, you f*****g n****r" Samoilau allegedly told Berhane, sponsored by MTN Qhubeka.

To apologise, Samoilau has reportedly promised to donate a month's worth of his salary to the team's Qhubeka charity. In South Africa, Qhubeka provides bicycles, organises sports events, and gets children riding. Qhubeka and CCC-Sprandi-Polkowice did not respond to requests for comment.

The incident has raised questions about a history of racism in cycling.

According to the Telegraph, MTN-Qhubeka team principal Doug Ryder said that his riders had regularly had to battle prejudice and bullying in professional cycling, with the team's non-African signings such as Tyler Farrar and Edvald Boasson-Hagen having to step in on occasion.

He also complained about abuse on mountain stages of the Tour of Spain in 2014. "We have [white] riders like Tyler and Edvald, riders who are well respected in the peloton, and [Berhane and Teklehaimanot] are their teammates, and they say, 'Hey guys, come on, these guys deserve to be here,'" he told the Telegraph.