Africa’s mountain bikers seeking a slot at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games will have to win the ride on Rwanda’s steep mountains during this year’s championships.
For the second time, Rwanda, known for its scenic 1000 mountains, will host the Confederation of African Cycling (CAC) Mountain Bike Competition.
Last year, the competition was hosted by South Africa in Cape Town, but the Rwanda Cycling Federation, with the support of the Ministry of Sport and Culture, won the bid for 2015.
Its for the second time that Rwanda is hosting a continental cycling event, following the 2010 African Mountain Bike Continental Championships.
“The competition will be a stepping stone towards bringing mountain biking tourism to Rwanda,” says Jonathan Boyer, Rwanda Cycling Head Coach.
“We have been successful in Road Biking and now it’s time for going into another discipline, Mountain Biking,” he said.
The event is slated for May 8-10 in Musanze District, Northern Rwanda, at the foot of the misty Virunga Volcanic Mountain, 95 kilometers from the Capital, Kigali and will pull nine international teams, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Uganda, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritius and Rwanda.
All 68 continental champions will race under 6 categories, which include; women and men juniors, masters and the elite.
The President of the Rwanda Cycling Federation, Aimable Bayingana, says the country is ready for the event.
A Switzerland trail design and consulting company worked on a 6km-long track on a piece of land next to the home of Team Rwanda Cycling (TRC), where the event will take place.
“We have been diligently working to prepare this course to be world-class caliber,” says Bayingana. “It will be an enjoyable and challenging experience for all, whether cyclist or spectators.”
Rwanda’s cast of bikers has famous names such as Abraham Ruhumuriza and Nathan Byukusenge in the elite category, having participated in Mountain Bike Cycling in Switzerland and South Africa.
“The competition will benefit mainly the young bikers and give them the basics of participating at the international level,” says Ruhumuriza.
Coach Boyer expects serious contenders from the Namibia and South African teams because of their experience in the game.
Meanwhile, Belgium Ambassador to Rwanda, Arnout Pauwels, will also participate under the master’s men category.