It is around 45 kilometers to ride from the Bugesera cycling coffee café, the clubhouse of the Bugesera Cycling Team, to the border that divides Rwanda and Burundi. Southwards, over hilly roads. Of course, one cannot cross the border without a visa, but it is the idea that one touched a neighboring African country that makes the ride special.
It is one of the most common training routes of the Bugesera Cycling Team (BCT), as it is easily accessible and avoids the heavy traffic of the capital of Rwanda, Kigali.
In and around Bugesera, which lies south of Kigali, it is still busy. The further one goes south towards the border, on well-paved roads, the quieter it gets. After a tiny town called Ramiro, we are basically the only ones on the road. We see the environment change a little – nature takes over and fauna is more visible along the roads.
On a gravel bike, which none of the women from the BCT has, one could do a nice loop, even via Lake Birara, where it is said to be a home for crocodiles. However, being roadies means we have to go up and down the same road. Maybe that is safer in the end…
On the way back, we race. On one of the steep climbs, Aline Uwera, attacks and drops all but one of her teammates. Claudine Tuyishime can still follow the woman who finished third in her age category during the African Road Championships in Egypt. But another attack from Uwera is too much for her. Uwera wins and then waits for everyone to come back to her.
While we are making our way back to the busier areas again, Uwera starts talking to a man on a motorbike. Soon after, she passes at a high speed, drafting like a professional behind the moto. The people in the towns don’t look surprised. Drafting is a habit among those who are privileged enough to have a bike. In reality, groups of cyclists, who use their bikes to carry heavy products from one place to another, regularly work well together on the roads in Rwanda. They ride in groups, benefitting from each other’s efforts, and use the draft as a way to save energy. Uwera paid attention to her fellow countrymen, for sure.
The last stretch back to the clubhouse is the most challenging. On an unpaved road, full of potholes, bumps, and sand, it is hard to handle the bike. Every day the Bugesera Cycling Team has to ride this five-kilometer-long track before getting onto the busy, paved roads. A disaster for both bikes and other equipment.
It is exactly why Israel – Premier Tech started the fundraising campaign: we want to offer the women from the BCT a safe place to train and develop their skills. In addition, the children who were given bikes by Fantini Wines will get a unique opportunity to practice and learn about cycling. However, we need your help to raise the much-needed funds for this project.
Just like professionals, the women make coffee after their ride. From their own coffee beans and in their self-made coffee cups. Then they clean their bikes with water and hand soap, and handwash their clothes. It is good that they studied in the early morning because, as the night falls, it gets harder and harder to see around the clubhouse. Tomorrow is another day, to study and then chase dreams.