Rwanda must leverage gains made in cycling

That Rwanda has struck gold as far as cycling is concerned is by now obvious. The Kenyans, Ethiopians and Eritreans have the marathoners although both Eritreans and Ethiopians are equally formidable in cycling.
Valens Ndayisenga celebrating after winning Tour du Rwanda for the second time. (File photo)
Valens Ndayisenga celebrating after winning Tour du Rwanda for the second time. (File photo)

Editor,

RE: “Ndayisenga has several offers, reveals Team Rwanda coach” (The New Times, December 17).

That Rwanda has struck gold as far as cycling is concerned is by now obvious. The Kenyans, Ethiopians and Eritreans have the marathoners although both Eritreans and Ethiopians are equally formidable in cycling.

The West African countries have their football talents and South Africa tends to be good at more elite sports like golf due to their ability to invest in these elite sports infrastructures.

Here is where African countries fail to exploit natural sports talents. Rwanda needs to learn what other countries have done best or poorly and commit to exploiting this talent (cycling). To give an idea of what one may be talking about, in professional cycling teams, they have various roles and for European cycling teams where cycling has some good cash, the role of African cyclists is probably that of a domestique.

This is the guy who supports the ‘champion’ by riding ahead of him so wind does not tire him out, pacing the rivals teams... A good domestique in Europe earns between 40,000 to 100,000 euros per year. The lower end is Rwf33 million per year, which translates to about Rwf3 million per month.

Adrien Niyonshuti currently is with Dimension Data World team in Italy. At the Africa Rising Center in Musanze, a good number of the cyclists in training have not even finished secondary school and were possibly bicycle taxi cyclists back in the village earning most likely about Rwf50,000 per month (and no nothing demeaning about a bicycle taxi cyclist).

This brings me to the three roles Government (Minispoc and Ferwacy) can play to tap into this opportunity.

Firstly, Minispoc should develop a talent detection strategy right from the lower ages. Cycling, like all sports, has an expiry date, hence the real excitement in this year’s find in Samuel Mugisha—a mere 18-year-old.

Secondly, development of a cycling sports infrastructure. Cycling, without a question, needs rigorous training, equipment and good training locations. Maybe it’s the right time for discussions if Government should invest in such centers or support investments into this particular activity. If government invests in cycling centers, I hope this will be led by a cost/benefit study.

Fortunately there has been a number of interests in the local clubs with Joseph Areruya from Les Amis Sportifs in Rwamagana and who is likely to head out of country already. Club Benediction Rubavu gave us Samuel Mugisha.

Cycling clubs themselves have a good shot at making money especially when the best talent is sold off, which makes it a good viable investment much like the football clubs that get fans in a tizzy when the contracts end.

Thirdly, protection of Rwandan talent to ensure that they get the best contracts/deals that favor them more. FERWACY team has done an outstanding job to support the sports and form an invaluable partner for the Government.

Finally, that Tour du Rwanda is the most outstanding UCI Africa; cycling race is a golden opportunity for Rwanda as a whole especially in tourism.
I hope the concerned are now preparing for adding on events to next years Tour du Rwanda.

Kigali Girl

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