RWANDAN cyclist Adrien Niyonshuti and two-time flag bearer for Rwanda’s summer Olympics team is on a hunt for a 2018 pro contract, having ended his two-year World Tour run with South Africa’s Team Dimension Data-Qhubeka.
Niyonshuti, 30, raced for the South African team for nine seasons as it progressed from the UCI Continental to Pro Continental and finally World Tour status.
Talking to www.velonews.com, Niyonshuti said “I am hoping and trying hard to get another sponsorship so I can stay in cycling through 2020. To find a new team to work with would be the dream.”
Niyonshuti said he hopes to stay in cycling’s World Tour, however, he is also looking at Pro Continental and Continental teams as well. He has also not ruled out a return to professional mountain bike racing; Niyonshuti raced mountain bike cross-country at the 2012 summer Olympics in London.
“For road bike, it would be much better, as I have eight years as a professional and five years in Europe,” Niyonshuti said. “I feel like individual racing like mountain biking is also good for me,” he added.
Niyonshuti’s departure from Dimension Data follows that of Algerian rider Youcef Reguigui and Eritrean rider Daniel Teklehaimanot, who wore the polka-dot jersey during the 2015 Tour de France. Team principal Doug Ryder attributed the departures to the limited space on his team’s 2018 roster.
If Niyonshuti is unable to find a team, he said he would return to Rwanda to work with the country’s cycling federation and his personal charity group, the Niyonshuti Cycling Academy. Based in his hometown of Rwamagana, the programme provides cycling leadership to young Rwandans.
Like other World Tour teams, Dimension Data has felt the pinch of the new UCI roster reduction for grand tour squads from nine to eight riders. The South African team has reduced its squad for 2018 from 28 riders to 27.
“Niyonshuti is probably the most loyal and dedicated individual that exists in cycling,” Ryder said. “He is an incredible human being,” team Principal Doug Ryder said.
“Like all teams, we have been fighting for survival, and we needed to make hard decisions. Unfortunately, that means Teklehaimanot and Niyonshuti did not make the cut. They were not at the level that we need at this time,” Ryder added.
Niyonshuti was the focal point of the 2013 film “Rising from Ashes,” which chronicled the progress of Rwanda’s national cycling team and its goal of qualifying a rider for the Olympics. The film discusses Niyonshuti tragic family history; he lost dozens of relatives during Rwanda’s genocide in 1994.
In 2006 Niyonshuti connected with Americans Tom Ritchey and Jonathan Boyer, whose nonprofit Project Rwanda worked to create the country’s first national cycling team.
Niyonshuti won the Tour of Rwanda in 2008 and won the country’s national road race title from 2010-12. He also won Rwanda’s national time trial championships in 2016 and 2017.
In 2009 former Team Rwanda coach Jonathan Boyer helped Niyonshuti gain a spot on Ryder’s UCI Continental team, then called MTN-Energade.