Celebrating the first year of “Racing for Change” with a training ride

The women’s team captain: “I owe them my first victory.”

The team is exploring plans to build a race track and a pump track in Bugesera.

Passersby would have come across an unusual sight today on the muddy, soaked road that leads to the center of a village in the District of Bugasera, Rwanda. They would have seen two groups of cyclists: one, a professional men’s team from Israel, and the other, a local team made up of young, aspirational women from the lush green town.

They had just completed a long training ride together. The riders from Israel – Premier Tech were doing a warm-up for the Tour du Rwanda, but, for the young women, this ride attested to their rapid progress since they were first “adopted” by the WorldTour team less than a year ago. “I couldn’t believe how they kept pace,” said Israeli pro rider Nadav Raisberg after the ride. “They really impressed us!”

“It’s just another proof of how the girls’ lives were affected by ‘Racing for Change,’ the project that the team from Israel has kicked in here,” said the Bugesera team manager Innocente Uwaamahoro. So far, the initiative has brought the first professional training camp to the only women’s team in Rwanda, new equipment, coaches monitoring the riders’ progress, English lessons, and much more.

Racing for Change has also established a social program for kids from the village, allowing them to ride bikes together under the supervision of newly trained guides; most kids had never had any access to bikes before. “It gave new hope, but more than anything, you see the boost of confidence gave them all,” said Innocente.

And it seems that no one is beaming with pride more than the captain of the team, Aline Uwera, recalling her first victory not long ago in a women’s race in Rwanda, still a rarity. “I was a bit afraid to crash, but I just went for it,” said the 18-year-old. “This would not be possible a year ago.”

Encouraged by the first fruits of the project, the team used yesterday’s visit to declare its commitment to developing the project further and revealed that it is exploring ambitious plans to build a pump track to develop the young cyclists’ technical skills and a race track that will enable youth to train safely. As a first step towards realizing the plan, the team has asked the leading pump track builder in the world, Velosolutions, and its foundation “Pump for Peace”, to join forces. The founder of the Swiss company, Claudio Caluori, has arrived in Rwanda and met with local engineers and construction workers to plan both tracks. “This double project – if realized – will have a huge impact,” said Calouri. “I hope we can join forces and make it happen.”

Israel – Premier Tech partner Sylvan Adams: “We have had some impressive accomplishments from our Racing for Change initiative in Rwanda, but as I like to say, we are JUST. GETTING. STARTED.”

“We see the Rwandan people as brothers and sisters as both people went through dark times of genocide,” said the team’s founder, Ron Baron. “It’s only natural that we feel obliged and committed to developing youth cycling in Rwanda, and we are now more committed than ever after a successful first year of the project.”

Ambassador of Israel to Rwanda, Dr. Ron Adam: “We are proud of the contribution of the team, both in sharing the cyclist’s knowledge and skills with the Rwandan women in Bugesera, and of their other generous contributions.”