The project would be the first sub-Saharan UCI team
The Ferwacy, the Rwandan cycling federation, expects to launch a Continental team in 2012. "We have a meeting next month with the Minister for Sport and we will speak about the project," Aimable Bayingana, Ferwacy's president, told Cyclingnews on Saturday. "Ideally we would like to register our team for the 2012 season."
Cycling in Rwanda is becoming more and more successful through its national team, which has been managed by former US pro rider Jock Boyer since 2007, and the Tour of Rwanda, which moved up to 2.2 level on the UCI calendar in 2009. A new 2.2 event has also been created this year, the Kwita Izina Cycling Tour.
The country also has a number of competitive athletes, such as Adrian Niyunshuti, professional at MTN Qhubeka and a qualifier for the 2012 Olympics in mountain bike. Nathan Byukusenge was also part of the same team, while two young riders, Nicodem Habiyambere and Gasore Hategeka, trained at the UCI World Centre in Switzerland this season.
"A Continental team is an interesting project as we would be automatically invited by the UCI to African races and could, one day, compete in Europe," Bayingana explained.
Cyclingnews understands that half of the team’s roster would be made up of Rwandan riders and the other half would come from foreign countries, depending on their cycling federations' agreement. The Continental Rwandan squad might be particularly open to East African countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, where riders have shown solid abilities in the last three years, notably in the mountains.
The Rwandan technical director Boyer told Cyclingnews that their project could "help Rwanda to have a stronger squad and help the East African countries to develop in cycling." Team of Rwanda has a base in Ruhengeri town, where the athletes train under Boyer five days a week. Boyer’s only concern about the project’s success is its current lack of staff.
If successful, it would be the first Continental team based in a sub-Saharan country. Africa had four teams at this level in 2011: South African squads MTN-Qhubeka and Team Bonitas, and the Algerian Geofco-Ville d’Alger and GS Petrolier Algerie outfits.