Monday, December 12, 2011

Tour of Rwanda/Team Rwanda: More Than Just a Race...More Than Just a Team

It's December 12th, weeks after the Tour of Rwanda and the dust has finally settled.  Every year our lives from the end of September through the end of November are a glorious study in workaholism and controlled chaos.  Every moment of those proceeding months leads us to the nine days of the Tour of Rwanda every November.  Every year about this time, after coming up for air, I finally get a bit of contemplative time.

This year was Team Rwanda's most successful year.  We had five riders in the Top 10 in the General Classification, Team Rwanda Karisimbi took top Team honors and Joseph, our young new rider, pulled out a nail biter final stage victory into Kigali, a first stage win for a Rwandan.  Joseph was so shocked by his win, he unclipped BEFORE the finish line and then after crossing the line, collapsed off his bike and sat down.  I have never seen anything like it.  Cycling News reported on each and every stage and captured his incredible win in words and picture! 

Once again this year, Team Type 1 participated in the Tour.  Last year they came thinking this was just a little African race and promptly felt the pain of the Land of a Thousand Hills.  This year they brought their A game and it showed right from the start. 

What is most important about Team Type 1's participation in the Tour of Rwanda is what they have done for the people of Rwanda who are suffering with diabetes.  Last year they provided testing, education and test strips to all the diabetics in the country.  Rwanda does not receive funding for diseases such as diabetes as most of the international medical aid money goes to AIDS and other infectious diseases.  This year they continued their education, testing and supply distribution.  In a remarkable serendipitous twist of fate, the driver for their Junior Team, a friend of a friend of ours who drove the TT1 group around to their education seminars, began listening to the programs in the various cities the entourage traveled.  One day he spoke up, "Could you test me?  I have many of these symptoms."  Claude tested off the charts and it was confirmed this man was a diabetic.  He immediately began treatment.  Driving for Team Type 1 saved his life...the Tour of Rwanda saved his life.  Without cycling there would be no TT1 working throughout Rwanda.  I got chills hearing this story.  Often times skeptics and cynics poopoo my perhaps melodramatic talk about how a bicycle can change a country.  A bicycle changed Rwanda.  Tell that to Claude.

From Stage 3, the Team began to gel.  I had never seen the Team race so well.  They had never raced like a cohesive group of individuals.  From Stage 3 Team Karisimbi secured the top Team spot and held onto it until the end.  Watching them was nothing short of inspirational and downright spectacular.  Gasore and Abraham, who recently was invited back on the Team, gave it their all into Gisenyi that day pulling the Team into first.  Janvier, our young new twenty year old rider in his first multi stage race, hung in there, his young underdeveloped legs begging to stop.  Nathan, Mr. Populair, was fourth overall.  Emmanuel, who fears riding in a pack, conducted breakaways almost every stage to keep the pressure on.  And Nicodem, always appreciative always realizing everything around him, always understanding the big picture.  They were a team, a real team!

I cannot put the 2011 Tour week to rest without a huge thank you to all the people who made this Team win possible.  Our riders had one thought the entire race, to race, that was it.  Hilary took care of making sure their hotel rooms were secured and their bags were waiting for them.  The other teams sat for hours before getting into their rooms every day.  Mel and Jess, took care of all the logistics for moving this caravan around the country of Rwanda.  They were also the food goddesses!  Our boys always had good breakfasts and healthy snacks.  Jeff, Dan, Bert and Matt, the motorbike dudes made sure photographers got the pictures and made it through the Tour without a scratch.  Issa, our alternate rider for the Tour, traveled with us and made sure every day the boys kits were washed and dry by the next morning.  Marnitz, Line and Conrad, our South African contingency, mechanics and massage therapists extraordinaire and loads of fun.  The South Africans always are.  We were all a team in the best sense of the word.

NicNic summed it up best on his Facebook page a few days after the Tour:

Thanks all teams rwanda,and our big staff ,you worked hard for us,I am very happy for you!!
 Yes...more than just a race...more than just a team.

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