First all-black women’s pro cycling team forming in Africa

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An African news source today announced the forming on an all-black women’s pro cycling team to be part of the UCI Women’s WorldTour in 2017.

A selection of 13 women from Rwanda, Eritrea, and  Ethiopia —with Rwanda’s cycling star Jeanne d’Arc Girubuntu among them — is currently training at the Africa Rising Cycling Center (ARCC). The purpose of this training camp is to assess talent for this potential professional team, which aims to compete at the highest world level.

“It is still early, we do not yet have all that we need to create and maintain the team,” stated Kimberly Coats, ARCC and Team Rwanda head of Marketing and Logistics, in an interview with AllAfrica.  “Currently, I am identifying and approaching potential sponsors, particularly in the United States.”

Headlining the roster for this potential team is Rwandan cyclist Jean d’Arc Girubuntu, who became the first black African woman to ride at the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond last September, just two years after she started cycling.

Photo by Heaton Johnson
Girubuntu at the 2015 UCI World Championships in Richmond.  Photo by Heaton Johnson

She caught the interest of the media as well as several cycling organisations interested in developing the sport in Africa.  Due to the limited development opportunities in Rwanda, Girubuntu was sent to train in South Africa and to the UCI World Cycling Centre in Switzerland. She raced at the African Continental Championships in Morocco —where she was the only black African woman on the podium — and joined Team Rwanda as their first female rider.

Her rapid development has spurred a lot of hope. 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 who face additional cultural barriers when it comes to sport.

Back in November Ella CyclingTips asked Kimberly Coats just how big that cultural gap is for a black African woman wanting to compete in cycling. Her response was crystal clear; “Have you ever seen the Grand Canyon? That’s how big the gap is.”

“In the rural villages where we live the women still don’t have a lot of rights and they are still doing most of the work,” said Coats. “But it can change and I can see it changing.”

The selection of riders currently training at the ARCC: Rwandans Magnifique Manizabayo and Jeanne d’Arc Girubuntu; Eritreans Tigisti Yowhans Gebrhiwet, Wahazit Kidane Afewrki, Baire Wogahta Gebrehiwet, Debesay Mosana Abraham, Yohana Dawit Mengis; and Ethiopians Dino Kelil Eyerusalem, Fkaddu Abrha Brhan, Eyeru Gebru Tesfoam, Takele Gelaye Fikreadis, Abera Furtuna Kasahun and Selam Amha Gerefiel.

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