By Ryan Dabbs
East-central African country Burundi hosted the first ever international women's cycling competition in the continent on Wednesday, at the International Women's Cycling Tour of Burundi.
Five African countries are taking part in the event, including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the hosts. The race started with a 40.5km race in the city of Bujumbura on Wednesday, and will finish on Sunday November 28.
The riders will cover 358.5km through the country's provinces over the course of the five-day race, with the second stage on Thursday a 57km route between the capital Gitega and Karusi in central Burundi.
Despite the lack of experience in the field of riders, the International Women's Cycling Tour of Burundi shows that women's cycling in Africa is growing. Annick Kaneza, a Burundian cyclist, is optimistic about the sport's development, with the event providing an opportunity for the cyclists to showcase their abilities.
She said: "I am very satisfied. This stage ended well. I started biking in 2020 when I was in eighth grade. In the days to come, I’m dreaming of continuing until I reach the world level."
Prosper Ngenzirabona, a Burundian cycling coach, is also trying to improve the quality of riders for the future, stating: "I just want to improve the attacking point of view and also the breakaway because we trained. It was supposed to be between two teams but what I saw is that one team did better than the other.
"We will try to work in groups so that we can win the remaining laps."
The first race of the five-stage event saw two Kenyan riders and a Ugandan finish on the podium, with a Burundian coming fourth.
This first ever international women's cycling competition in Africa comes a couple of months after the UCI World Cycling Centre organised a training camp at the Cairo Velodrome for 28 juniors from 12 African nations: Algeria, Burundi, Ethiopia, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.
The training camp was organised ahead of the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships in Cairo, and was a part of the UCI Solidarity Programme to develop cycling worldwide, particularly in regions where there are fewer opportunities available.
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