While in Musanze, I visited the Africa Rising Cycling Center (ARCC), home of Team Rwanda. Founded in 2006, Team Rwanda has made impressive strides while positioning the land of 1,000 hills as a popular cycling destination, with a top-ranked UCI 2.1 race.
I became a cycling fan in late February, 2019. This happened when I was visiting Rubavu District. The trip coincided with the 12th edition of Tour du Rwanda.
I was driving and providing tour guiding services to some tourists . We were on our way to downtown Rubavu from the rolling green hills of Nyabihu. Sambaza delicacies and cool breeze from the lake were on my mind. Then something unexpected happened.
I was pulled over by a traffic police officer who instructed me to park far away from the tarmac. Many other vehicles had been stopped and villagers were gathering on both sides of the road. As I was looking for a good spot to park, I saw a police motorcycle charging from the opposite direction. The powerful bike was trailed by a police car flashing bright headlights.
Then came a truck carrying the likeness of a cyclist in action. It looked like Lance Armstrong’s statue mounted on the back of a pick up. The said truck was branded by Skol Lager, one of the main sponsors of the event. More vehicles and adventure motorcycles followed before I saw the cyclist who was ahead of the pack at that particular juncture of the race. This was a cycling event but there was a good number of sports cars and adventure motorcycles in the mix — the likes of BMW R 1200 GS and KTM 1190.
More vehicles, accompanying teams representing different countries, were speeding up towards Musanze. Extra bicycles and their parts were fitted on the carriers of some of those cars.
It has been almost two years but that day’s memory has stuck on my mind. The day I was kicked out of the road to clear the way for cyclists and their motorcades. The day I found myself cheering with numerous excited residents of Kanzenze Sector, Rubavu District.
That was a stage 5 showdown spanning the distance of 138.7 kilometers. On that beautiful sunny day, participants raced from Karongi to Musanze via Rubavu. This challenging stretch was won by Eritrean Biniam Girmay Hailu but at the end of the 8-day spectacle, it was Merhawi Kudus who stole the show.
When second-placed local hero Areruya Joseph blew past us, we screamed our lungs out. His spokes were spinning so fast that I could barely see them.
My visitors were thrilled. They were captivated by the race and pumped up by the ambiance surrounding it. Influenced by the visibility Skol earned from the competition, they became consumers of this product. Positioning your brand as the face of such a mega event pays dividends. Advertisers take note.
While touring the ARCC, I gathered first-hand information on the process of developing talent and grooming world-class cyclists. The youngsters at the academy put in the work. Details of my observation will be shared in my upcoming posts.
The author is currently visiting all 30 districts of Rwanda. The tour of Musanze is sponsored by Ikaze Rwanda Tours, The Peakspot Lodge, My Hill Ecolodge and Imari Hose Ltd.