Film screening

In honor of Team Rwanda’s visit to the Bend, McMenamins Old St. Francis Theater will screen the documentary “Rising From Ashes” twice July 17. The documentary recounts the creation of the Rwandan national cycling team, which was founded by former American cyclist Jock Boyer and a number of young Rwandan cyclists, most of whom had been children during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

To learn more about Team Rwanda and its cyclists, visit teamafricarising.org.

The Cascade Cycling Classic, the longest consecutively-run elite stage race in the United States, will take on an international flair this July when six members of Team Rwanda join the field in the annual Central Oregon race.

The Rwandan cycling team, which was founded in 2006, accepted an invitation to compete in the inaugural Colorado Classic, which will be held over four days in August. But Kimberly Coats, Team Rwanda’s director of marking and logistics, said the team wanted a tune-up race to prepare.

“(Racing in the United States) is very different from what they’re used to in Rwanda or even in other African countries,” Coats explained. “The peloton is larger, there’s more crit racing here, just getting them used to a bigger pack and a little bit more aggressive riding.”

Coats said the team wanted to return to Oregon, where it competed in the Hood River Classic in 2007. But of all the stage races in Oregon, the Cascade Cycling Classic had a special draw for the members of Team Rwanda: They already had a teammate — an honorary one, anyway — in Bend.

During the classic, a five-day road cycling race held in Bend and throughout Des­chutes County, the team will stay at the home of Bend mountain biker Adam Bucklin, his wife and two children. Bucklin had reached out to Team Rwanda in early 2016 after watching “Rising From Ashes,” a 2012 documentary that follows the early years of the Rwandan cycling team, and asked how he could help raise money and awareness for the fledgling national team.

Since then, Bucklin has competed in races across the United States as an honorary member of Team Rwanda, donating any prize money to Team Africa Rising, which supports Team Rwanda, as well as cyclists from a number of other African nations. He competes in a Team Rwanda jersey, and says that many other cyclists recognize him more for his ties to Team Rwanda than for his own cycling accomplishments.

Still, he said he is surprised — he uses the word “surreal” — that he will get to meet so many of the Rwandan team members.

“It’s super cool. It’s just amazing that they’re coming, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to meet them and ride with them, do some training rides,” Bucklin said, noting that he never seriously considered traveling to Rwanda due to familial obligations. “It’s far beyond anything that I ever expected when I got involved with this.”

Although team members regularly travel to compete internationally — Adrien Niyonshuti and Nathan Byukusenge both competed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and five team members race on professional teams across the globe — this is the first time members of the Rwandan national cycling team have competed in an American stage race in 10 years.

The team set to compete at the Cascade Cycling Classic includes Gasore Hategeka, who was featured in “Rising From Ashes,” as well as Team Rwanda captain Bonaventure Uwizeyimana. Jean Bosco Nsengimana, Jean Claude Uwizeye, Rene Ukiniwabo and Didier Munyaneza will also make the trip to Oregon.

Bucklin said he has used his local cyclist connections to line up massage therapists and bike mechanics to assist Team Rwanda once the race starts July 19. Otherwise, he says he does not want to plan too many activities for the visiting cyclists, who after all will be here for business more than sightseeing.

“I think, just riding around and being here will probably be enough for them,” Bucklin said. “If they want to, we can go to the lakes or go to Mount Bachelor. They might want to touch some snow. That would be really fun, because they don’t often get to see snow.”

—Reporter: 541-383-0305, vjacobsen@bendbulletin.com

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