Behind the success of Team Rwanda is a group of people who, over the past 3 months, gave up everything to give this team the success it so needed, the long overdue win of the Tour of Rwanda.
They gave of themselves, everything they had, financially, emotionally, putting their own needs behind the needs of this team. By giving everything they received everything.
That’s really how it works. The people who give a little, who give halfway, who give to get for themselves, never understand how rewarding, how joyful, giving everything, with no strings attached, no background voices saying “how will this benefit me?” really can be.
You cannot be a team when you hold out for yourself.
…and it’s never easy.
Daniel, our coach who guided this team to their historic win, was away from his wife for 8 months. During that time their dog became very ill, Ebola happened, and as with all of us, lack of money/finances is always in the back of our minds. I have never seen someone have to make such difficult decisions. At one point his return to the US, only months before the Tour, was a possibility. When you don’t have children, your animals are your children. The childless of us get that.
What happens here when bad things happen at home is we give each other space. No one can make a difficult decision with people always giving opinions. At times, it might have seemed like we didn’t care because we didn’t talk much about things at home, but we do, we pray. What I prayed for most was for Daniel to be able to see and feel and experience the impact that he had during these 8 months. God sorted out the details.
After months of riding, following on the motorbike for hours on end in the heat, rain and cold, Daniel watched his team, his group of young men, perform like the professional cycling team they are.
I remember one stage in the car as we went around a sweeping turn looking up and seeing Team Rwanda driving at the front up the hill. They were freight train. I started crying. For six years we have hoped to see this….here it was.
And when he returned home days after the Tour his wife AND dog were waiting for him.
Jamie, also had some ups and downs, leaving us at one point, but then coming back with both of us in a better place. Jamie has been our best mechanic since we began. We could not have done this Tour without him, although the stress of being in yellow the entire race most likely shaved a few years off his life. The best thing about Jamie ….the riders know how much he works, sometimes late into the night. They respect him. Having Jamie in the Tour gave them comfort.
Kelsey and Weston came to Rwanda the same time as Daniel. They were supposed to stay for a few months, maybe, we never really talked about it until they got here.
Weston built the first BMX pump track in Rwanda and has started training young men to ride BMX. He also helped Daniel spending hours on the motorbike following the training rides, which got longer and more complex and more difficult with each passing week. In his spare time he fought the internet and power outages to crank out bi-weekly newsletters and fundraising campaigns to keep us afloat. I love seeing him training his BMX kids as I sit and imagine this is what Jock was doing 7 years ago with the original 5 Team Rwanda members.
Kelsey is a bit like me….doing everything and anything that needs to be done. Thank God she loves accounting, the bane of my existence in Rwanda. Most importantly, she too has found her niche with the team. She is “teacher”. The team is not only learning English. They are learning how to do interviews, how to formulate questions and provide articulate answers.
She also started the Team player of the day. Riders voted every day on who they thought best exemplified “Team is Team”. Emile won. Emile, the once surly kid, the kid with a really crappy home life, with no good role models, a kid who literally fought his way into this family. I cried.
Kelsey gets most of the crap work…laundry, organizing, laundry, making beds, laundry. She stayed at ARCC during a good portion of the Tour because someone needed to be here. She does whatever needs to be done, no questions, no complaints. She sees it as serving. As Jesus washed his disciples feet, so Kelsey washes the rider’s clothes. It’s a servant’s mentality. The riders know this.
Andy has been a volunteer for the past four years. He’s Mr. Logistics, hauling all our bags (staff & riders) from stage to stage. He drives ahead, secures the hotel rooms (most difficult job of the week!), puts bags in each room, washes bottles, washes clothes and makes sure when our team hits the hotel they are the first ones to eat, shower, massage and sleep. He is a crucial component to the success of this team during the race. He does it all on his own dime. On top of that, he writes amazing articles abouthis time with the team. It is mostly unspoken, but the team knows how fortunate they are to have him working with us.
This was Jen’s second Tour of Rwanda with us. She’s a massage therapist from South Africa. When I emailed to ask her if she’d come back this year she said she would but would have to come on Monday, the day after the race started, because she was in a wedding in South Africa. The day after the wedding she jumped on a plane and was here. She massaged 7-8 riders every day. The best thing she told me is that Abraham, after having his first ever massage with her, said “she has power in her hands!” Yes, Abraham Jen is a powerful woman and not just in her hands. She teaches Obed. She loves the team….and so does her family, who drove hours this February to attend a fundraiser in Joberg for the team. I think Jen’s mom is one of our superfans!
This year Rocky and Jacques, both former Team Rwanda members, were our assistants. They washed clothes, bottles and just ran around making sure everything was done. They were up early, went to bed late. They had both raced the Tour of Rwanda…they knew what the riders needed.
At the Tour we had another mechanic, Sean, who jumped on board and made sure Team Muhabura’s bikes were fit to lead the train. Plus, he's a super MacGuyver who can fix anything. Very handy to have in your arsenal!
Kiki and Obed, also former cyclists, now mechanic for Team Akagera and massage therapist for all, were with Felix Sempoma making up a full Rwandan race crew, Team Akagera. Every year, Felix Sempoma gets better and better and more invested personally in the vision of cycling in Rwanda. He is the future leader for Team Rwanda.
Felix Safari, our assistant, worked 7 days a week for almost two months, making sure ARCC ran smoothly. The day before the race he spent 2 hours on a bus to bring us much needed parts after one of our frames broke and we needed to scramble for a new bike for Aime. Felix simply makes our lives easier, every day.
Roger Markham, Kelsey’s dad, hauled ALL of our race wheels over two days before the start of the race. He brought over Clif race food and a variety of miscellaneous parts, things and doo dads, all vital to us. He donated the bag fees and the other things he had purchased for us out of his own pocket. We won on those wheels.
The motorbike guys….Dan, Pete, Jimmy, Thierry, Vincent, Bert and Come…thank you. Every year you make our lives easier during this crazy 8 days. To not worry about the safety of the motorbikes or the passengers you carry is one less thing running through our thought processes every day. These guys come on their own dime and are paid nothing to work these 8 days. They do this just to help out this team....they do look like they have a "little" fun!
Today I read as part of my morning devotion the following:
Isaiah 58:10 (AMP Bible) And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday.
If you give it all you get more than you ever could imagine.
Thank you TEAM....Team is Team!