The idea has been floating around my head for the better part of a decade. Always conceptualized in its ideal form of expression as the fine art of the pursuit of excellence in bike racing. Building a team. That’s the dream. I’ve consulted with other parties about their concepts, coached other teams as they grew and often wondered why no one seems to be able to do it in a truly original way. I heard it said once that you should give your ideas away, the ones you can’t give away, those are the ones you develop.
In my 5 years of working in African cycling I’ve become absolutely convinced that the talent to compete at the highest level exists in spades in many as yet untaped communities. Physical specimens that inspire awe at the miracle of the human weapon. The only thing lacking is the individuals and programs to develop these athletes. So year after year, would be superstars never even climb on a bike.
If I could do anything, I would change that. I would bring the dream under one roof and seek out the truest manifestation of native talent and cultivate it with the most refined methods I can conceptualize. When I was coming up as a young athlete, I went through the gauntlet that every young aspiring pro must go through: Europe. There is no substitute for the convergence of forces that result in the international, world class, European peloton. If you wanted to compete with the best in the would, you had to go jump in the trenches with them, and it was rough.
Today the same is true, and while limited, African athletes make brave forays into the international Euro, but increasingly global racing culture. The biggest obstacle is how cost prohibitive the sharp learning curve is. The ROI on sending a team from Rwanda to go compete in Belgium or France is not sustainable. It takes time to adapt and gain the confidence needed for success. Season long tenures by individual or isolated small groups of Africans are again, brave, but often a losing battle. Adapting to culture as well as to the pinnacle of performers in the sport is so all consuming that something has to go. Quality of life really matters in the end, so in most cases, it’s the racing craft that doesn’t get enough oxygen.
I believe that all of this however, isn’t necessarily necessary. The only reason for joining in the absurdity of the Euro charged cycling circus, is that it houses the biggest and best stages in the world. But what if there were a better way for African athletes to prepare for and adapt to the world stage, what if instead of begging for a spot in the white man’s circus we started building our own?