While Tour du Rwanda continues to attract a host of international riders who convene in the country for the race, tourists from all walks of life also visit the country to not only enjoy the race but also ride for fun while discovering remarkable Rwanda on a road bike. Since 2019, Professional Hospitality Solutions, a local hospitality company, has been working closely with Rwanda’s cycling governing body (Ferwacy) after introducing ‘Ride Rwanda’ with which they embarked on a journey to promote cycling and help people make sport part of their lives and improve tourism, particularly for cycling amateurs and others who would wish to exercise in a fun way. Jean Bosco Kubwimana, the brains behind the concept, took Weekend Sport’s Peter Kamasa through the essence of the Ride Rwanda and plans to expand the concept to make it appeal to the local and foreign masses. What is Ride Rwanda? It is a tourism product designed for cycling enthusiasts and tourists, in general, to experience the Tour du Rwanda as part of the race. During Ride Rwanda, amateur cyclists ride four of the stages of the Tour Du Rwanda some hours before the professionals start cycling and go to the finish line of the race to cheer up the cyclists. The whole package of Ride Rwanda includes cycling guides, security on the road, ambulance escort, a feed zone (refreshments on the road), the truck to pack the bikes after riding, pick up a car in case the cyclists get tired before reaching the finish line as well as lunch/ dinner. The provision of accommodation is optional. What is the agenda behind the initiative? The aim is to showcase the unique scenery of the country and demonstrate the place that is renowned for its volcanoes, mountain gorillas and beautiful country of thousand hills as one of the best cycling tourism destinations in the world. The event offers amateur cyclists from all over the world the chance to experience cycling in the beautiful Rwandan countryside, just like professional cyclists would, both on and off the bike. We want to expand this product and attract more cyclists from outside of Rwanda because the feedback we have received from the participants so far is that the product is really amazing. Our focus is to target groups of cyclists as they wish to come in groups and offer them a premium cycling package that is well aligned with the National Tourism Strategy. In addition to this, we see Ride Rwanda as a Team building experience where people belonging to the same group can ride together to increase motivation. We are encouraging companies that have special messages that have a social and economic impact such as health matters, environmental conservation, climate change, etc. to use this platform since this is the right platform to reach to more audience What does it take to join/participate? For participants to join, they have to pay a fee for participation. This year, individual travelers were requested to pay $90, including accommodation, per stage. Groups of cyclists were receiving discounts on what is included in the package they requested. What does the future hold for Ride Rwanda? Riding a bicycle has been associated with additional health benefits besides just the physical part that comes along with it. Sports and tourism, it is productive for Rwanda before the Tour du Rwanda starts at every stage. As the Tour du Rwanda grows up we need to raise the level of cycling in Rwanda, and we are made up of young riders who meet with other riders where they help them in the future. Riders not only took part in the race but also experienced the stunning landscapes of Rwanda, from the rolling hills of the countryside. Rwandans are familiar with road cycling, but mountain biking is still embryonic. Rwanda is a land of breathtaking scenery, friendly people, elusive mountain gorillas, and – perhaps surprisingly – a big passion for bikes. How has the attendance to Ride Rwanda been faring in the past four years? The first two years of Ride Rwanda was more on testing the product and we were offering more to local tourism operators and also served as team building activities for Ride Rwanda partners. Last year, Ride Rwanda had around 80 participants. The number almost doubled during this year’s edition which attracted 150 amateur riders. They raced four stages in Rwamagana, Gisagara, Musanze and Rubavu, which were part of the professional Tour du Rwanda 2023. Former Senate President Bernard Makuza, an avid cycling enthusiast was part of the 2023 participants while former riders Abraham Ruhumuriza and Gasore Hategeka are among Ride Rwanda personnel who were guiding participants during the race. Any impact/contribution to Rwandan Tourism so far? Ride Rwanda is contributing to diversifying Rwanda's tourism offering by promoting Rwanda as a cycling destination. In addition, the initiative is also one way to communicate to local stakeholders the needs of cycling tourists. Our clients leave with a message to inform other groups of cyclists that Rwanda is an ideal location for cycling. In this regard, our promotion will target groups of cyclists around the World. Cycling is one of the best sports, we believe that it’s by riding a bicycle that one gets to know better the contours of the country since you have to sweat up the hills and coast them down.