Pivot Cycles: From the land of a thousand hills to the Swiss Alps – Förderverein Shift Up For Rwanda e.V.

Pivot Cycles: From the land of a thousand hills to the Swiss Alps

Swiss Epic, a race I’ve wanted to do for a long time and this year it worked out. But the fact that the competition wasn’t the main focus wasn’t the original intention. The race is a team race, as is often the case in mountain bike stage races, and is one of the highest categories in the world rankings. However, I found it difficult to find a partner, so I took the option of giving a rider from Rwanda the chance of a lifetime.

Didier Munyaneza, coach of the Twin Lakes Cycling Academy and one of the best road cyclists in his country, was flown in. Buddy and photographer Don Ailinger will support the academy from here, as street children are brought back to school by bike and given a home and a future. At the same time we want to promote the sport of MTB in the country and Didier will go from roadie to biker. For him it’s a better chance to get to a world championship or even the Olympics than in road cycling, and for the academy it’s an incredible reputation.

It started with the race in the Black Forest, followed by a few days of technical training, and then we were at the start of the Swiss Epic in Arosa. World ranking points were up for grabs up to 30th place, so the goal was clear. Not so easy in the midst of some world class teams and athletes, but especially not so easy when it was suddenly 15 km downhill on trails. Despite two weeks on the bike, his riding technique was the biggest shortcoming and the courses in Switzerland were very demanding in terms of riding technique. But Didi did it confidently and, most importantly, without crashing. Our tactics were a bit different than usual in MTB team races. I often sent him to the front on the climbs and picked him up quickly on the trails. He has a big engine and is made for climbing, plus he comes from a high altitude and, unlike me, had no problems from the start. Once I got him up, it was a case of talking him down. Tips on position on the bike, line choice, braking and so on. I tried to play teacher without any pressure, forgetting that we had a number on the handlebars. However, I often just rode behind Didi because he seemed to be safer and faster. The impressions on and off the track were often too much for his head, so sometimes I had to “shut up” and let him do it.