KARONGI, Rwanda (VN) — A cowboy-looking Canadian, Bruno Langlois, took control of the Tour of Rwanda’s queen stage on Wednesday. After four grisly climbs, including a 17km ascent topping out at 2,290 meters above sea level, he rode solo to the lakeside finish in Karongi.
Langlois left his last partner, Eritrean Metkel Eyob, on the descent to the finish line. Eyob punctured in the middle of the crossfire leaving little time for Langlois to wait. Besides, as Langlois said, “he wasn’t fucking working on the climbs.”
Thousands of Africans who came from working in the fields just east of the Democratic Republic of Congo lined the course. Even more were in Karongi to see the stage finish near Kivu Lake. A hundred or so surrounded Langlois, intrigued by his French-Canadian accent, his kit and that horseshoe mustache.
Langlois is from Rimouski and lives in Quebec City, and is one of the minorities here. Foreigners were oddities after German and then Belgian colonization ended in the 1960s. They especially avoided Rwanda when genocide killed about 800,000 people in 1994.
“I’ve been pretty surprised, all the people are friendly with everything that happened in the genocide. A lot of people lost families,” explained Langlois. “They are friendly and good people, it’s all just surprising to me.”
Langlois’ Quebecor Garneau team races with 11 others in the Tour of Rwanda, but is one of only three non-African teams. West African cyclists from hotbed nations Eritrea, Rwanda and Ethiopia dominate. American Jonathan “Jock” Boyer works on a project to support Rwandans and plans to do the same in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The best riders, like Rwanda’s Adrien Nyonshuti, head to the cycling center in South Africa to work with J.P. Van Zyl. If they survive, the door to Europe opens, as it has for Nyonshuti at MTN-Qhubeka.
“They are pretty strong, most of them are pretty young without a lot of experience and understanding of what they’re doing. Road cycling is hard, there are a lot of tactics and you need a lot of experience to know how to win a race,” Langlois explained. “There are probably a lot of people here in this crowd who are super talented, but they’ll never know because they don’t have the money. It’s easier to buy a pair of running shoes than a bike.”
The Canadian cowboy discovered his love for cycling with a local club in Rimouski. He raced with Quebec’s team and the Canadian national team, and later turned professional in the U.S. in 2005. After a run with Canada’s SpiderTech-C10, he switched to take a leadership role with Quebecor and help it step into the UCI’s third division next year.
Quebecor participated in the Tour of Rwanda thanks to Louis Garneau, who also sponsors Team Rwanda and Boyer’s project. With Langlois’ and teammate Remi Pelletier Roy’s wins, and the discovery of a new cycling world, it has been a worthwhile journey.