When I sat down to write this story, one phone call interrupted what I was about to do. The caller asked me to write something about a party his hotel had hosted sometime back. Since this fella takes a good care of me whenever I visit Musanze, I did what he wanted me to do and forgot to assemble this piece.
This happened in March when I was visiting the ever enchanting Rubavu District. The trip coincided with the latest edition of Tour du Rwanda, an international annual cycling event which is part of the UCI Africa Tour.
I was driving and providing tour guiding services to a couple of tourists from the diaspora. 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 motorbike 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 cruised by 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 were more vehicles involved than bicycles. Participants were burning more fuel than calories. Motorists seen in front, between and behind the competitors outnumbered the latter.
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. Big and fancy motorcycles, propelled by explosive engines were in the mix too. I wasn’t sure which role drivers and motorcyclists play in cycling races but their number was mind-boggling.
It was late February 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 extravaganza, 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 witnessing Tour du Rwanda action in Rubavu, I saw the connection between hard work and success. I drew inspiration from the race. Yes, this happened months ago but it’s never too late to share an unforgettable experience.