Overcoming one of the most horrific tragedies in history, the 1994 genocide that resulted in the deaths of over 500,000 people, Team Rwanda is now making their presence known in the cycling world.
For the first time in history, Team Rwanda is competing in a UCI-sanctioned race in the States – the Colorado Classic (Aug. 10-13).
In 1994, most of the Rwandan cyclist were just young children growing up in the aftermath of the Hutu-led government genocide. Cycling was their way out.
In 2005, Jock Boyer, who in 1981 became the first American cyclist to compete in the Tour de France, moved to Rwanda wanting to help and began building a cycling team that is now up to 35 cyclists.
Adrien Niyonshuti was one of the original five cyclists recruited by Boyer and one of the young children affected by the genocide.
In August 2009, Niyonshuti participated in the Tour of Ireland, making him the first Rwandan cyclist to ride in a European pro peloton. Later on, he also qualified to represent Rwanda in the 2012 London Summer Olympics as a cross-country mountain bike racer.
Niyonshuti’s success skyrocketed the popularity of cycling in Rwanda and led to Boyer building a legitimate cycling team.
Boyer and the six top Rwandan natives on his team, are set to compete in the Colorado Classic, a UCI 2.HC race. A HC race is the highest ranking category of cycling races. It will be one of the first times Team Rwanda faces such intense competition.
However, with the support of millions of fans in Rwanda, Boyer believes his team can finish in the top 10. Bringing awareness to Rwanda in any way, shape or form brings a tremendous amount of pride to the natives who have overcome the unthinkable.
Team Rwanda has landed in Colorado and will begin training for the Colorado Classic August 1.