From the Library: Land of Second Chances

"At the 2011 Tour of Rwanda … [Adrien Niyonshuti] had fallen off his bike; his shoulder was badly scuffed and he had abrasions all down his side. It was nasty but fairly typical for a professional cyclist. Yet he looked badly shaken. 'When I saw the blood on the tarmac, it reminded me of the genocide and how I saw the blood in the water, in the rivers, on the roads."

Enter Tom Ritchey: "I wanted to initiate the thought that the bike was incredibly developed and celebrated, not just as a utility tool for carrying hundreds of pounds of potatoes but as recreation, transportation, and sport … my hope was that if you could explode that idea, you could possibly - and it was just a thought - change the direction of the country."

Land of Second Chances begins and ends with Adrien Niyonshuti, like bookends holding innumerable sub-stories, characters and plots between them. In reality though, Niyonshuti is neither beginning nor end of this story. He is but one part of it, the native center around which  others, both people and events, teammates, Rwandan's, other Africans, Americans and Europeans, are entwined. Former racer turned coach Jonathan Boyer, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, and Tim Schilling are among the numerous players of the story who saw promise and potential, a desire of the Rwandans to rise above the confines of their past. If the people hold the desire, it is the bike that has provided the means. Some of those bikes belong to racers like Niyonshuti, others are the bikes of taxi riders, still others are the Hope Bicycles allowing farmers to get the greatest value for their coffee beans.

In the early 1990s the people of Rwanda experienced one of the most horrific genocides of the Twentieth Century. Over the twenty years since then the name Rwanda has continued to conjure that singular image to most of the world. But out of that morass, hope took root and began to grow. From a seven-year old boy whose five brothers, one sister, and forty other relatives were murdered during the genocide, to an unprecedented ride in the 2012 London Olympic Games, Adrien Niyonshuti beat the odds. That is what this book is about - hope, and the promise of a better tomorrow.

Lewis, Tim   Land of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise of Rwanda's Cycling Team   Boulder, CO: Velo Press, 2013

As a related aside, the 50 mile (and 25 mile) Ride for Rwanda will be celebrating its 8th running in 2014 and has become the largest one-day mountain bike event in Southern California. Get more information on the April 26 ride at their website.