Rwandan cyclist Jean d’Arc Girubuntu, the first black African woman to ride at the UCI Road World Championships, has moved a step closer to her dream of racing professionally in Europe with the help of British professional cycling team Matrix Fitness.
Team Rwanda, which is supporting promising cyclists in the genocide devastated nation, took on the talented but untested Girubuntu as the first female member of the team. Her rapid development has spurred hopes she could make it to the top level of the sport. If she does break through Girubuntu would blaze a path not just for the female cyclists of her country, but for all black African women.
“We would like to create an opportunity for Jeanne d’Arc to race in Europe, and we are discussing options at the moment. Whether it is with us, or via our network of contacts, we’d like to see what’s possible to see if we can help provide another carefully planned step on the ladder for Jeanne d’Arc,” said team manager Stefan Wyman in a statement.
Girubuntu’s development opportunities in Rwanda have been limited by the lack of competition in a nation where there are significant cultural barriers for women wanting to pursue the sport, so she has been sent to train in South Africa and at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Switzerland. She raced at the African Continental Championships in Morocco last month where she took silver in the individual time trial, just one second off first place. She was the only black African woman on the podium.
“Team Rwanda are doing great things, and plan to have more women’s racing in Rwanda in the future. We are sure Jeanne d’Arc can inspire and encourage future riders in Rwanda, and hopefully we can do a tiny bit to help support her along the way,” said Wyman. “It was recently mentioned in an ESPN article that Jeanne d’Arc earns US$1,200 a year and supports a large extended family with this income, we certainly hope we can add a little to this and make life for her and her family a little more comfortable.”
Team Rwanda was established by former professional cyclist Jock Boyer ten years ago and is managed by Kimberly Coats, who is determined to grow the women’s side of the team.
“We at Team Rwanda understand the value of our partnerships in launching these young men and women onto the international cycling stage. We do not do it alone. Matrix Fitness’ goal to match and exceed Jeanne d’Arc’s salary will relieve stress for both the athlete and her national team and more importantly it shows the worldwide commitment to the growth of women’s cycling especially in developing nations such as Rwanda,” said Coats.