Team Rwanda Cycling wrote many stories over the past near-decade about the life of Gasore Hategeka with the team. Gasore was an orphan when he accidentally found his way on to Team Rwanda. Accidental, because Gasore and another rider had come to our team house in 2009 to test. We only had one bike, so the bike was going to go the rider who did best on the watts test. Gasore and the other young man never tested that day thanks to a power outage which lasted until Jock had to leave the next day to fly to the US. We came up with another bike, and they both ended up on the team.
Just a few weeks later Gasore took third in the Kwita Izina race which our former mechanic, Maxime (Max) Darcel, and newbie DS, Kimberly Coats worked. Kimberly called Jock from Rwanda and relayed the incredible news about this young man who we were calling “Alex” at the time. He came out of nowhere and to the top of the sport in Rwanda in a few short weeks.
But Gasore had been around for years. He saved up his money as an orphan by picking up potatoes that fell off bikes and out of bags transported to the market. In time, (years), he sold enough potatoes to purchase a single speed Chinese bike weighing over 30 pounds. He trained every day and used the bike to haul produce to market. As the months passed, he got stronger and eventually started waiting for Team Rwanda to come by his hometown. He would jump on the wheel and stay for as long as he could. Junky Chinese single speed vs. high-end road bike was a brutal match he always lost. No matter how many things he took off the bike to make it lighter, he never kept up the entire ride. But every day he got stronger, and eventually, he found his way to the team.
In those early days and even still today, road bikes are hard to come by. They’re expensive, hard to import into Rwanda and just not available for most of the population. For Team Rwanda every single bike was a precious commodity.
In 2010, Steve Pascoe from Conway, Arkansas volunteered as a dentist in Rwanda. A cyclist, Steve wanted nothing more than to visit Team Rwanda. Steve came by the team house in Musanze and went on a mountain bike ride with Jock and Max. Steve remembers that ride, “I’ve just ridden the most memorable ride I’ve ever done. On a bike you see much more and experience more on a personal level. I rode around a lake through villages and experienced Rwanda. I wanted to do more.” Upon leaving, he asked us what he could do to help. Jock talked about how much potential Gasore had, but he desperately needed a new bike, a road bike he could also use for racing.
Steve returned to Conway and immediately contacted his local shop, The Ride, about building a bike. The owners, Erik and Tara Leamon were all in on helping to build a bike. One of the smartest and inclusive fundraiser ever devised was the Gaso Bike Build. Jock told Steve what type of bike and the components and wheels and Steve and The Ride posted the story with “the ask” for all its customers. Customers were asked to purchase a “piece” of the bike, a wheel, a saddle, cables, and components. The Ride donated the labor and the parts at cost. Gasore had a bike built by the people and customers of The Ride in Conway, Arkansas. It was a Specialized Tarmac with Campy 11 components, worth at the time over $7000 more than he had seen in a lifetime.
Fast forward seven years. Just last week Gasore won the final 2018 race of the Rwanda Cycling Cup. Kimberly, our social media queen, pulled an article about Gasore’s win from the local paper, The New Times. There it was, on the leading photo, Gasore’s bike. You can’t miss the “S” on the front for his Specialized. Not only was that bike still literally rolling, but it was also winning, and so was Gasore.
When Erik was shown the picture of Gasore winning last week’s race in Rwanda on his Specialized he was blown away. “I had a moment of wow, we did something good. You often don’t get to see the results of what you did. We believe in making the world better one bike at a time and this was one of those times.”
Gasore is now 31. He married a young woman also orphaned in the Genocide. They now have three beautiful children. He owns his house and set his wife up in business. And on November 26th he was selected for the first Rwandan registered UCI Continental Team, Team Benediction Cycling. He has a fantastic life all because of a bicycle…THIS bicycle built by the people of Conway thousands of miles away.\
The bike is probably on its third or fourth set up wheels and the original components long replaced, but the bike is still bringing wins. Thanks to the teaching and instruction of Craig Calfee, the carbon frame received multiple repairs over the years has also been repaired.
People ask what can one bike really do? It can give a life and a family to two young orphan kids. It can inspire a generation of kids who want to be like Gaso. It can provide for a rider and his family, immediate family and an incredibly large extended family. It can give hope to a country through a rider.
One bike merely is everything.
Thank you, Steve, Erik and Tara, and all the customers who invested in the future of Gasore Hategeka and built him a bike.
Making the world better one bike at a time.