On his second visit to Rwanda and his native Africa in 12 months, Chris Froome has been actively racing with his team, Israel – Premier Tech, who are in the hunt for the General Classification victory at the Tour of Rwanda. He played a key role in his Israeli teammate Itamar Einhorn’s win in the second stage.

For the Kenyan-born, four-time winner of the Tour de France, returning to his beloved continent for the second time has already been an emotional success. He has witnessed and taken an active part in a project close to his heart: assisting Africa’s youth in gaining access to the sport he is so passionate about.

Enter the Field of Dreams, a unique bike center that his team has built in the remote district of Bugesera, Rwanda, as part of its Racing for Change vision to transform the lives of children through cycling. The center, which includes a pump track and a race track, was built with funds from team owners Sylvan Adams, Canadian Kevin Ham, Israeli Ron Baron, donations from the team’s riders, and more than a thousand of its fans.

Now, exactly one year after the opening of the center, Froome and his team have arrived to celebrate the center’s first anniversary. For Froome, the most important question was whether it was another of those structures built but turned out to be an empty shell or a white elephant, the sad fate of many other projects.

After spending half a day at the center he helped inaugurate just a year before, Froome came out with a resounding answer.

Froome says: “We didn’t just deliver the pump track and race track; the community has truly embraced them, ensuring they are put to good use. To see how the community has embraced it, how many kids are involved in the project, and how many coaches we’ve got coming here as well is amazing. There’s a whole ecosystem around it now.”

He was amazed by the kids racing on the pump track and showing incredible skills, a result of methodical lessons they are receiving from local instructors from the nearby schools and villages, who were originally trained by an expert sent from Israel. “It’s not easy on the pump track,” Froome adds. “I have a lot of respect for these kids. Some of them are going really fast around there.”

He was so excited that he jumped right into the action, happily discovering that he actually felt more comfortable this time around. “I definitely felt that I at least knew what I was getting myself into, he jokes. “Last year, I nearly came off a few times! This time, I was a bit more confident on it.”

He was equally impressed with the Bugesera Women’s team that his team adopted and supported over the last two years, after racing with them on the racetrack. One member of the team made it to the World Championship in Glasgow last year.

Froome remarks: “They’ve obviously been training and working hard. I think some of those women are definitely moving in the right direction. The ultimate goal over the next decade or two is to have someone from Bugesera reach the top level of professional cycling. If that were to happen, that would be a dream come true, and I believe it’s possible.”

Indeed, the leaders of Bugesera, UCI officials, and the Rwanda Cycling Federation all underscored the project’s profound influence on the local community and its impact on youth cycling in Rwanda.

The GSF Foundation, which provided the land for the bike center, has noted a significant positive shift in the community. “The pump track and road circuit have become central to skill-building, fun, and activity for Bugesera’s children. Many have progressed to become instructors, enriching both their lives and the community,” says Innocent Umamahoro, the foundation’s manager. The center’s appeal has even led some families to move to Bugesera, further strengthening community bonds.

Road racing at the Field of Dreams center
Photo: road racing at the Field of the Dreams center

Since its inauguration, the center has hosted a record-breaking eight weekends of junior racing on its race track, showcasing its impact for all to see.

Simon Huppertz, the UCI representative to Rwanda, echoed Froome’s sentiments, highlighting the center’s crucial role in organizing the Rwanda Youth Racing Cup, which has seen increasing participation since its inception. “The record participation at the Field of Dreams in Bugesera underscores the project’s success in attracting and nurturing young talent,” Huppertz notes. The center has also hosted a series of training camps led by the Rwanda Cycling Federation and the UCI for aspiring new coaches and commissaires.

As the Field of Dreams bike center embarks on another year, it reaffirms its commitment to broadening its reach and impact. With the introduction of new race bikes for children and the establishment of junior cycling teams in local schools, the center is set to elevate its mission further.

Photo: children showcased their excellent pump track skills

Israel – Premier Tech team owner Sylvan Adams has expressed his hope that the bike center’s race track will host a stage in the Tour of Rwanda next year, and indeed, this is already under discussion.

Adams concludes: “I am proud of the work that my Israel Premier Tech bike team did in Rwanda in building this Field of Dreams for aspiring cyclists. Despite the challenges, including the tragic events of 7 October, we are inspired by the resilience of both the Israeli and Rwandan peoples.”