A major part of Team Rwanda Cycling's mission is discovering new talent and nurturing these young riders.
At the age of 17, Jean Paul Rene Ukiniwabo has already tasted success in his two-year cycling career. The strong and committed teenager finished second at this year’s individual time trial at the national cycling championships in June in Nyamata, Bugesera district but is still hungry for more success. He emerged first in the junior category in four Rwanda Cycling Cup events this year including the Race to Remember, the Northern Circuit from Musanze to Rubavu, Eastern Circuit from Nyagatare to his hometown Rwamagana and the Tour of Kigali from Bugesera to Kigali.
These achievements got him noticed among the cycling fraternity in Rwanda and could not be ignored when junior riders were summoned for the inaugural training camp at the Africa Rising Cycling Center in Musanze.
“I was very pleased when I was told that I will be training with other junior riders from across Rwanda and those from other countries. It is difficult to do much when I am training alone at home after school. Now I train with many riders and we work together on so many things,” he explained.
Rene, a secondary school student at Groupe Scolaire Sovu in Rwamagana, started riding a bike in July 2013. He won a school competition at his first attempt and was invited to join Rwamagana-based side Les Amis Sportifs. Just like any other young rider in Rwanda, Rene looked up to Olympian Adrien Niyonshuti.
“I used to follow Adrien during the Tour of Rwanda and I used to say to myself that I want to be like him. I also want to be as strong as Valens,” said Rene who is chuffed to be in their presence in Musanze. To be like his idols Adrien and Valens, Rene has already learnt a lot at the training camp. He said, “I can now jump a hump without difficulty and know how to balance on a bike. I can fix my own bike if I get a puncture. We have learnt this in the mechanics class. It is interesting.”
Rene is grateful for the opportunity presented to him and he mentioned that, “It is good to know that Team Rwanda thinks about us and our future in cycling. The senior riders have advised us on what to expect and how to go about many things.”
His dream is to represent Rwanda at the international level and he wants to win. “This training camp has taught me how to work together with my teammates and when I am old enough, I want to join Team Rwanda and one day compete in the Tour of Rwanda and other international races.”
Rene, who is the third born in a family of four boys, wants to use cycling to help his single mother raise his siblings. “I am going to continue working hard so that one time I can help my family,” said Rene.
Rene is currently on the short list for the Continental Championships Junior road race in Morocco in February 2016.