Didier Munyaneza is unlikely to be a name any mountain biking fan is familiar with. Perhaps that is because he has only completed one mountain bike race? Though, more likely it is because he hails from Rwanda, a small East African country. Through the UCI’s efforts to promote cycling in Africa and the Tour du Rwanda the nation has become a breading ground for talented road racers.
Somewhat surprisingly, given the nation’s mountainous terrain and relative lack of paved roads, Rwandan mountain bikers have yet to make an impact on the global stage. This could change as the talented 2022 national time trial champion and 2018 road race champion takes on the SPAR Swiss Epic alongside Daniel Gathof. The only hitch… Munyaneza has but one mountain bike race to his name.
In fact, that situation is more complicated than that, as Gathof explained: “He’s only done one race so far, which he got through without crashing, which is great. So, I’ll have to teach him, as well as I can, in the weeks before SPAR Swiss Epic.”
Photo by Don Ailinger
If that sounds like a brave decision on both Gathof and Munyaneza’s parts, its only the half of it. “My goal is to make him a local hero in Rwanda, on a mountain bike,” Gathof promised. “I meet Didier in March, when I was in Rwanda for the Rwandan Epic mountain bike stage race. He is the trainer of the Twin Lakes Cycling Academy, which gives homeless children the chance to become cyclists on the condition that they go back to school. The brilliance of the charity is that it teaches kids to cycle, but also ensures they receive an education. Though supporting Didier I’m supporting his charity and the great work they do!”
“I’m very excited to race the SPAR Swiss Epic alongside Didier,” Gathof continued. “It won’t be easy but he comes from the Land of a Thousand Hills, so at least the altitude in the Swiss Alps won’t be a problem. I’m also proud that my personal sponsors are supporting this project, Pivot Cycles USA, Bikmo Insurance and enerquinn are all involved, as are Squirt Cycling Products.”
The South African based company – which produces chain lube, bike wash and tubeless tyre sealant – is the official Bike Care partner of the Epic Series. As such Squirt Cycling Products was in the position to provide Gathof and Munyaneza with an entry to the 2022 SPAR Swiss Epic. The pair will be contesting the event as Squirt Lube/Twin Lakes Cycling Academy, in the elite men’s competition. To follow their progress and help Munyaneza become a local hero in Rwanda visit www.epic-series.com/swissepic and follow @munyaneza.didier.3 and @danielgathof on Instagram,. The racing gets underway in Arosa on the 16th of August.