Now he sold his gold mine in Uganda, the country which has been his home for much of his life, former professional Paul Sherwen has had time to reflect on another type of African treasure: road cycling. This is why the television commentator visited the Tour of Rwanda, not far from his home in Kampala. After seeing two days of racing and the standards of organisation, Sherwen described the Tour of Rwanda and Team Rwanda achievements are “inspirational”.
“This is the first time I come, responding to Jock's invitation, and I am amazed to see what's happening in Rwanda”, Sherwen told Cyclingnews in Kigali.
Sherwen believes that the countries of the African Great Lakes region should me more involved in the development of African cycling. There is a gap between Rwanda and Eritrea and Ethiopia, which all sent national teams to the eight-day races, and Rwanda's neighbours, who are not represented in the race peloton.
“I am sad there's no Ugandan national team at the start”, Sherwen said. “On the same way as the Tour of Rwanda, we also can imagine a Tour of Uganda one day. There are beautiful roads outside Kampala, the country is wonderful and there's no doubt a major cycling race could promote all its assets.”
Sherwen knows that Ugandan cycling needs more support, notably from businessmen and even more importantly from cycling federations.
“I know some who are really interested to invest into cycling,” Sherwen said. “The Tour of Rwanda and Team Rwanda are successful thanks to the perfect collaboration between Jock Boyer and the national cycling federation.I am afraid some other federations don't really support their own country, like the Kenyan one, where the president has been in place since about 30 years.”
Sherwen says he could be involved in African cycling, especially in the off-season, but not full-time as Boyer is. He is considering instead a role, helping the promotion of cycling projects. He also dreams on a stage race across several East African countries that would go beyond borders.
“Why not organise a cycling event like the East Africa Safari Rallye?”, he asked, referring to the competition launched in 1953 and which previously included mostly African participants before turning into a global event. “We need to see these countries as part of a big region, the Great Lakes Africa. There's a strong potential in tourism and economics. A race from Rwanda to Tanzania, going through various countries of the area, that would definitely be great!”
Sherwen also suggested that the Tour of Rwanda could explore Ugandan roads in the near future, with at least a stage designed across the two countries. The idea sounded even more possible last Monday, with the first stage of the 2015 race starting in Nyagatare, 15km from Uganda border.
He thinks the project can get the support of the two Presidents -Paul Kagame (in Rwanda) and (Uganda), “They are good friends and went to the same school”.
“A mountain stage in the area of Kabale is an exciting perspective”, Sherwen said. Such a multi-country race would boost regional cycling. “This is what Africa needs and cycling needs Africa today...”