Bikes from some of the biggest stars of the peloton will soon be winning races from one end of the planet to another. There is no magic involved, because you still have to be extremely strong and have enormous pedal power in order to be first across the finish line. And that is the case of Emmanuel Rudahunga and Joseph Biziyarenye, the two Rwandans who each won a stage of the Tour du Congo, a new event that is not yet part of the UCI calendar. Behind this success story are two talented athletes, some patient coaches and equipment provided by UCI WorldTour teams.
In 2011 and 2012, Rwandaâs cycling federation (la Ferwacy) benefited from the âUCI ProTeam Solidarityâ programme, organised as its name indicates, by teams in the first division and the UCI. At the end of the season, each team donates some of its bikes to cyclingâs emerging countries.
âThese bikes are an enormous plus for our riders,â explains Jonathan Boyer, Rwandaâs national coach. âWe are very grateful to the professional teams who send them and to the UCI which acted on our request. The quality of equipment is a central issue in the development of cycling in Africa, and we would never have been able to pay for this kind of equipment. Our riders have no more excuses now!â
The bikes received via âUCI ProTeam Solidarityâ are carefully stored in a shelter in Musanze (Ruhengeri), where the Team of Rwanda is based. They are closely guarded by Zulu, the South African Boerboel, and treated with the utmost respect by the national teamâs mechanics.
In order to conserve them for as long as possible, the bikes are used exclusively for competitions. âOur riders love them and would often like to keep them between two events or between two stages,â smiles Kimberly Moszyk Coats, who is in charge of the teamâs logistics. âBut it is impossible! We make a distinction between training bikes and UCI ProTeam Solidarity bikes which are for competitions.â
In the Tour du Congo, Emmanuel Rudahunga won on a bike offered by a team in 2011, while Joseph Biziyarenyeâs victory was on a bike donated in 2012.
Like Rwanda, 16 national federations benefited from the programme last year, in Africa (Cote dâIvoire, Eritrea, Libya, Mozambique, Seychelles), in Asia (Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Democratic Republic of Korea, East Timor, Thailand, Turkmenistan), in America (Cuba, Guatemala) and in Europe (Latvia, Moldavia).
In parallel with âUCI ProTeam Solidarityâ, another initiative sees bikes sent to federations who make the request: âUCI Bikes for the World Lookâ is the result of a collaboration between the World Cycling Centre, the company Look and the WCCâs partners for equipment.
These two complementary programmes back the development of cycling throughout the world. The donation of a bike can sometimes be a huge source of motivation for a federation. Jonathan Boyer observed this in another East African country: âThe Burundi national team has made considerable progress since it received equipment. Its level had slipped over the last few years but it is now getting better and their athletes will be able to participate and finish UCI Africa Tour events. When a national federation receives bikes, it doesnât only receive something it lacked, it suddenly wants to develop even further.â