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Team Rwanda's original five: Where are the pioneers now?

Nathan Byukusenge (L) and Abraham Ruhumuriza retired from competitive cycling in 2017 and 2016, respectively. Ruhumuriza won Tour du Rwanda a record five times before it turned international in 2009. / File.

But, before the revival of the national team under the ‘Team Rwanda’ brand in 2007, cycling was one of the least active and least popular sports in Rwanda. Anyone, including some sports reporters, would struggle to name three riders if surprisingly asked.

 

Until 2009, Tour du Rwanda was an amateur race and only attracted local teams and riders. Today, it is considered as the biggest cycling event on the continent.

 

Jonathan ‘Jock’ Boyer, a former professional rider and the first American to race Tour de France, is synonymous with the formation of Team Rwanda, having arrived in the country in 2006 before assembling the team and flying it to the United States to race Tour of the Gila in New Mexico.

 

The trip marked a new era for the national team, and Rwanda cycling at large.

Adrien Niyonshuti, one of the five riders that comprised the team, went on to become a professional rider – at World Tour level – for eight years, and twice represented the country in the Olympic Game.

The 2007 original Team Rwanda of five also included, Nathan Byukusenge, Abraham Ruhumuriza, Rafiki Uwimana, and Nyandwi Uwase.

Thirteen years later, Weekend Sport takes a look as to where the historic five riders are now.

Niyonshuti

Adrien Niyonshuti was the first Rwandan to qualify for the Mountain Bike (MTB) event of the Olympic Games, at its London 2012 edition, and the first Rwandan rider to race for a World Tour Team – South Africa’s Italy-based Dimension Data for Qhubeka.

The 33-year old is now taking his wealth of experience in coaching the next generation of Rwandan cyclists. He is the technical director for UCI Continental Team Skol Adrien Cycling Academy (SACA) who made their Tour du Rwanda debut this year.

The team finished fifth out of 16 teams, while their rider Moise Mugisha finished in second position, 52 second behind Eritrean Natnael Tesfazion.

Byukusenge

Since his 2017 retirement from competitive cycling, Nathan Byukusenge has been part of Team Rwanda coaching staff, particularly in charge of the men’s youth team, and women’s teams.

He retired from the sport as one of the country’s most respected legends, having represented Rwanda at the Rio 2016 Olympics, in Brazil, in Mountain Bike.

During his cycling days, Byukusenge competed in several continental and international races, including the 2015 Mountain Bike World Championships in Spain.

Ruhumuriza

Abraham Ruhumuriza, a household name in local cycling of the 2000s, is also a member of the national team (Team Rwanda) coaching staff at Musanze-based Africa Rising Cycling Centre.

His main success was in the Tour du Rwanda, back in its amateur era, where he won the race five times between 2002 and 2008.

The 40-year old also clinched the now-defunct Kwita Izina Tour three times; 2009, 2010 and 2012.

Nyandwi

Nyandwi Uwase reportedly lives in South Africa, and little is known about his whereabouts and what he does since calling time on his cycling career in 2011.

Rafiki

Jean de Dieu Uwimana, commonly known as Rafiki, is an internationally certified mechanic, and currently serves at the Africa Rising Cycling Centre.

Rafiki was the team spokesperson in the beginning of Team Rwanda as he had the best grasp of the English language. He was also considered the most charismatic among the five pioneers.

His last major race as a rider was the 2011 Tour du Rwanda.

pkamasa@newtimesrwanda.com

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