Sunday 31 July saw Team Rwanda-Dassi invited to race the Ride London Classic - one of the world's premier races
Due to the success of our debut UK Tour, Team Rwanda HQ was contacted by the organisers of the illustrious Ride London festival to invite our young development team to take part in the Ride London Classic! This race offers the world's largest prize fund and featured over 20 of the best teams in the world, including Team Sky, BMC, Etixx-Quick-Step, Lotto Soudal, Cannondale and several more.
There was also a representative 'Team GB' team racing, including the world cycling star Alex Dowsett. Alongside all of these proudly stood Team Rwanda, with their exclusive Dassi bikes - the only carbon racing bikes entirely made in Great Britain. Click HERE for more details on these unique bikes.
Dassi bikes secured by SeaSucker racks to the team car
Before the race itself, Team Rwanda were invited to take part in a special film to promote the Ride London event, through the BBC 'Get Inspired' television channel. The team and head coach Sterling Magnell were interviewed to see why they were here and what they wanted to achieve. You can watch this special feature on the team by clicking HERE
The team being interviewed for the BBC's Get Inspired programme
Once the media work had been completed, the team moved base to the official race headquarters in East London and spent the rest of the day relaxing, stretching and taking on fuel! As the riders prepared their minds and their bodies, the support team ensured that the bikes were all in prime condition and the spares, fuel and equipment in our support vehicles was all ready for the race. We have had race mechanic support in all our main races by the amazing Peter Merridrew, ex-pro bike racer and mobile mechanic for Wales' finest bike shop, Plan2Ride. (Definitely worth checking them out if if you are ever in South Wales. There site is HERE.)
The Team Rwanda-Dassi team car and Plan2Ride's mobile mechanic sprinter van
Team Rwanda-Dassi arrived at the Start/Finish area and were presented to the crowd by new London mayor Sadiq Khan. There was a huge cheer when Team Rwanda were announced to the big crowd, great to witness.
As the team left the podium, they saw Team Sky coming their way. Our DS couldn't miss this opportunity and we grabbed the mighty Chris Froome for a photo. It made our riders' day to meet and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their absolute hero, and a great ambassador for African Cycling!
Team Rwanda's young U23 riders standing with their hero, Team Sky's Chris Froome
The race then set off on a 200km route out of London into the Surrey countryside, several loops of the infamous Leith Hill and Box Hill and then a 50km race back into central London.
Team Rwanda-Dassi featured in the Top50 of the peloton for most of the opening 50km of the route. At this point there was a stoppage in the race due to a big accident further up the road, separate to the race itself. After a 20 minute delay, the race began again, leaving a 3'50" gap for a lead group who had broken off the front. The pae started to pick up to World Tour level and in the team car, we started to pass pro riders who just couldn't keep up with the searing pace and intensity of the pro peloton. So far, no Team Rwanda riders in sight! At this point we were receiving messages that the team were near the front in a Team Sky - Team Dimension Data - Team Rwanda-Dassi - BMC Pro Team chain. What an amazing experience for our young guys.
At around the 95km mark, we saw Samuel Mugisha, our 19 year old and youngest rider starting to suffer. He dropped from the peloton with several other riders and was picked up by the 'broomwagon' soon after.
Jean Claude battling up the unforgiving Surrey hills
We covered another 15-20kms without incident and sight of any further riders. Joseph, Jean Claude and Bosco were sitting in the peloton working hard! We received several messages that Bosco was well up, JC and Joseph were in the peloton and doing well. Then calamity! On a seemingly innocuous straight piece of dual carriageway, somehow a large crash happened and caught up the last third of the peoloton, including all three of our riders. The rest of the peloton and those un-injured or with no mechanics sped off. We got out riders back up and running and they gave chase with a small group of riders.
Catching the peloton now would be a very tall order and so it proved to be as around the 120km mark we came across them riding together but clearly tired from the relentless pace (described by Tom Boonan, the eventual winner as "a hard day as everyone was going bananas all day long. Everyone was fighting for every metre of the road!")
We left the guys to continue together and sped up in the team car to find our man Bosco. He was 10-15kms up the road riding with one of the Etixx-Quick-Step riders trying to get back onto the tail of the peloton so we filled his water bottles and refuelled him.
The spectator support on the course for the Team Rwanda-Dassi riders was unbelievable!
Most of the pro riders who dropped from the lead groups were stopping to get picked up rather than riding all the way back into London so we dropped back to find Jean Claude and Joseph and had them picked up in the very busy broomwagon. Over 20 pro riders had dropped out by this point.
We shot back up the rode to find Bosco. We saw his riding buddy from Etixx-Quick-Step pull over and get in their fuel wagon so he was somewhere on his own and catching the peloton would be impossible now. This proved to be the case and he dropped from the race. Only 107 of the initial 160+ riders managed to finish the race so our guys had given a very good demonstration of the potential of Rwandan cycling.
We sped back into the London in the team car and re-grouped with the large group of Rwandan diaspora that had attended the race, including Her Excellency the High Commissioner to the UK, and several members of her staff. All were incredibly proud of the riders and the riders were also very happy and inspired by the pride they had installed in their countrymen and women. A good sign of things to come as we are keen for more diaspora to attenf our international races and cheer the riders on!
Some of the awesome Rwandan fans who attended to cheer on their riders!
A great day was had by all and as the sun set down London's iconic Mall and over Buckingham Palace, Team Rwanda Cycling's most senior race day since our creation in 2007 felt like a huge step in our development as a force in African and world cycling and our name is now associated with the highest level of cycling. Watch this space for the next chapter in our development!
#AfricaRising #RwandaRacing #teamisteam #soproud
(Many thanks to Hugh McManus, Leonard Julien, Trevor Mould and Jeremy Ford for the use of these photos.)