Team Africa Rising Year End Updates Part I

I must tell you I did not imagine 2019 would end up like it is ending up.

Time and time again, we were faced with pushing the “reboot” button, plunking down in the chair to regroup, resetting then going forward.

We had several embers getting brighter as the year went on, which gave us hope, and it is those emerging lights I will share in this and upcoming newsletters.

Benin and its new cycling federation President, Romuald Hazoumè:

From my very first phone call with Romuald in April, I knew this person was genuine, passionate, dedicated, and visionary. I knew that when I did “meet” him in person, we would “connect” and be able to accomplish a lot together. He had big ideas for his Federation and already had achieved things no one had in cycling in Benin before him. He had a fleet of Tarmac Specialized bicycles, was organizing races, he was sending his team to African races and the Continental Championships. Though he had a solid sponsor, La SOBEBRA, he used a lot of his own money to fund his team. He wanted to achieve more and reached out to me via the Coach, Papoen, in Ethiopia at the Continental Championships.

A few phone calls and emails later, we had already arranged a shipment of clothing, Park Tools and equipment to New York, then to his office in Paris, then to Benin. International logistics that few federations figure out in years he had already down do an art… Oh yes, did I say art?

I should mention Romuald Hazoumè is a world-renown artist whose work is as remarkable as it is beautiful and amazing. His perspective in life, his convictions and passions transform what one person would discard, would look at as refuse, or esteem not worthy, into something very unique of beauty and value. Something that tells a story we all need to hear. That is how he treats his stewardship of the Benin Cycling Federation. Romuald gives of himself, he cannot do otherwise, it is his nature, and something that comes as natural as breathing.

Like his art, he gives each person a meaning, purpose, hope, and value. Now he is giving this value, purpose, and meaning to the Benin Cycling Federation.

So when we arranged our first mechanic training for him with our long-time mechanic, Jamie Bissell, I knew I had to go.

Romuald offered not only his artist’s studio in Porto Novo for the training but also his loyal and amazing cook Pascal to us. He took complete care of us the moment we set foot in his country.

We had one woman and seven young men trainees from the various parts of Benin. The woman, Chantal, was their top female cyclist, which added a big plus to the mix. The training went without any flaw. All the participants were not only attentive, smart, and motivated but also very, very appreciative of the effort Jamie and I had done to make this training possible. Everyone learned something they did not know and would be able to use this new knowledge to service their clubs in their respective regions.

This training is just the beginning with Romuald and Benin. Cycling in Benin will grow quickly and with a solid foundation. We are already formulating a five and 10-year plan that will bring Benin into the International cycling scene quickly.

Initially, Romuald’s focus will be on the youth, women, equal prize money for both women and men, junior trips to Belgium to start them learning early, more mechanic training, coaching training, soigneur training. The Tour of Benin looks to be reenacted for 2020, a velodrome and training center is in the vision as is the Paris, 2024 Olympics.

The list goes on, and we, as TAR, will be there with him to assist at each intersection or crossroad. Expect to hear more and more about cycling in Benin and their leadership under Romuald Hazoumè.

We are raising money to help fund six full Park Tool toolkits for the newly trained mechanics so they will be able to start businesses and provide for the needs of cyclists and cycling clubs throughout Benin. Please consider a life-changing gift today!