UCI-Level Cycling in Africa is Growing Fast, Especially Among Women and Juniors

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UCI-Level Cycling in Africa is Growing FastPool - Getty Images

Besides a few events, professional cycling in Africa has historically not gotten a lot of attention, but that seems to be changing. Over the past 10 years, a focus throughout the continent has been on youth and women’s teams

At the close of Tour de Rwanda last year, the UCI reported that the Federation President has high hopes and ambitions, “We are working with the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) satellite in Paarl (South Africa) and we are working with some professional teams, and with some National Federations in Europe. Of course we have ambitions for our athletes, especially in the Junior and Women categories. We want to be on the stage!”

UCI Road World Championships prep is underway for 2025

Preparations are already under way for the 2025 UCI Road World Championships, which will take place in Rwanda, “land of a thousand hills,” on the African continent for the first time ever.

With this global spotlight, teams and athletes in Africa are more determined than ever. According to the UCI, “More races, more training camps, courses for coaches, mechanics and Commissaires… no stone is being left unturned in a bid to see an African on the UCI Worlds podium in 2025.”

African Cycling Confederation President Dr Azzam points to new stage races being created throughout the continent, which will be in addition to the stage races already on the UCI International Calendar.

Those already established races include the Tour of Rwanda, the Tour du Mali, and the Tour of Limpopo, which will take place in South Africa in May, and the Tour du Faso in Burundi in November.

Women’s Pro Cycling at the forefront

Perhaps most exciting is the women already leading the way. Cyclingnews reported that Kimberly Coats, CEO of African cycling development organization, Team Africa Rising, said that as hard as a professional cycling path is for men, it’s even tougher for women to break onto the scene. “That's why it's remarkable to see an all-time high of 16 female Africans from seven different nations racing for UCI teams in 2023.”

Among such challenges as travel restrictions and lack of access to equipment and races, many women in African nations also wrestle with cultural pressures. There aren’t as many well known examples of women who have been successful as professional cyclists. Team Africa Rising runs cycling programs in several African nations aiming to empower women and men to reach their potential on the bike.

In the UCI’s focus on women and juniors in Africa, the vision goes beyond just training. Former UCI track cyclist and head of UCI WCC’s South African satellite, Jean-Pierre Van Zyl, says they are working to foster relationships and funding. “If we are to have success in Africa, it will come from junior categories and women. We have a big chance to be in the top five or on the podium with those categories…The most talent in the entire world sits within Africa.”

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