Fly Cycling youngsters shift focus on next race after modest start in Belgium

Fly Cycling Club’s youngster Jean Eric Habimana is among riders in Belgium. Sam Ngendahimana.

FLY Cycling Club young riders have turned attention on the upcoming Menen-Kemmel-Menen race – on July 11 – after posting a very humble debut over the weekend where they competed in their first race in Belgium.

The Menen-Kemmel-Menen (126.9km) taking place this Wednesday (tomorrow), is one of the most respected cycling events for juniors in Europe. It is a junior men’s UCI 1.1 race.

The 11-race European tour of the six youngsters started on July 7, and will climax on July 29.

On Saturday, the six young riders under the guidance of head coach Jordan Lewis Mathes competed in the Desselgem race which was 86.7 kilometre-long, made of 17 laps in Desselgem town. The one-day race was contested by a total 84 riders.

Besides Jean Eric Habimana, it was the first time for the other five riders to experience a race outside Rwanda. Last year, Habimana, 17, won a silver medal at the African Continental Track Championships in Durban, South Africa, on Rwanda’s debut in track cycling.

During the Desselgem race, five of the six riders did not finish the race – with the exception of only Jean Claude Nzafashwanayo who finished in the 32nd position.

Sensational Yves Nkurunziza bowed out after puncturing earlier in the race, Jean Eric Habimana abandoned the race after a fall that left him seriously wounded while the remaining three; Jean Baptiste Nsabimana, Barnabe Gahemba Uhoraningoga and Felicien Hakizimana chose the easy way out after failing to keep up with the pace of the peloton.

After the race, Belgian experts – including Ronny Vanmarcke who has been the national coach of Junior Belgian riders for over 40 years – had a chat with the youngsters.

The vastly-experience tactician hailed the Rwandan youngsters for the talent and strong fight they put on despite failure to finish the race, before tipping them for greatness in future “if they keep working hard, discipline and believing in themselves,”

Meanwhile, head coach Mathes says that with help of Vanmarcke in the remaining races, they are going to embark on train the riders on how to drive in corners - steering skill, and how to go in and out of the corners.

“Teach them how to maintain their position in such a European peloton, if necessary, to squeeze in order to stay. After three to four races, I am sure we will be seeing huge progress,” he noted.

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