We love the wonderful initiative called Team Rwanda. In the East-African country Rwanda, most famous for the civil war and genocide of 1994, people living in rural areas tend to spend their lives within a day’s walking distance of their homes. And as cars are too expensive, the bicycle is the most common form of mechanized transport. Where in countries like the USA children look forward to owning a car, in Rwanda children dream of having a bicycle.
Rwandans use the bicycle in many ways in their lives, oftenly transporting goods on their back while riding it or using so called wooden coffee bikes for the transportation of sacks of coffee beans or other goods. The love for cycling in the country is reflected in the Tour of Rwanda, until today the only UCI supported (since 2009) bicycle race in East-Africa which was first held in 1988. In 2007, another very important moment arose in the world of cycling in Rwanda as it was the moment a national cycling team was established: Team Rwanda.
The idea for Team Rwanda was born in 2005. It was the year Tom Ritchey, a professional American cyclist in the 1970s and the man viewed by many as the inventor of the mountain bike, made his first visit to Rwanda. He set up Project Rwanda, a charity that would provide new coffee bikes designed by Ritchey to thousands of Rwandans. Ritchey also established an annual race, the Wooden Bike Classic, for which hundreds of Rwandans would come to race their wooden coffee bikes. Finally in 2007 the national cycling team named Team Rwanda was established. Since then a lot of work has been put down by the growing team and their passionate American first coach Jonathan Boyer. And that hard work paid off as at the recent 2012 Olympics one racer who was an original member of the team and since 2009 races professionally for the South African MTN Qhubeka team, qualified to represent Rwanda in the mountain bike category named Adrien Niyonshuti.
Adrien ended 39th, but was privileged to carry the Rwandan flag at the opening ceremony and created a lot of well-deserved positive attention for the extraordinary Team Rwanda.
For more information, merchandise and ways to support the team see here! And make sure to keep track of the always inspiring World Cycling Atlas and see their feature on Team Rwanda here.