By Damon Wyatt, Bikefit.com
Team Africa Rising is Team Rwanda. An initiative formed in 2006, the founders, management, and coaches have elevated some members of the program of 25 riders to the international level of competition.
Their objective, from the Team Africa Rising website: “Our mission has been to not only recruit, train, and compete in cycling, but also to teach and train the next generation of coaches, mechanics, nutritionists, etc. for the program by modeling the necessary infrastructure of running a first-world cycling program.”
Team Rwanda recently competed in the Cascade Cycling Classic and we at Bikefit were honored to connect with their dynamic and influential Coach, Sterling Magnell, while the team visited the U.S to discuss the rise of Team Rwanda and how BikeFit powers them.
BikeFit: Tell a little bit about yourself and Team Rwanda.
Sterling Magnell: I coach the National Cycling Team of Rwanda. We strive to cultivate our young riders into the best ambassadors and sports men and women they can be. Ultimately, turning professional and riding in the international peloton.
BF: What is your main goal with the team and where are you in your process of reaching it?
SM: My ultimate goal is to replicate myself in terms of knowledgeable coaches and directors that can grow the sport on every level, understand, train and look after the athletes from juniors to young riders navigating their first years on pro teams. I’m making good progress. I have coaches that are able to do many of the things I normally do, so I’m at the point where I can delegate. We still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding international nuances and the finer sciences of cycling and training. Bike fit is a big component.
BF: How is the team doing this year? What are your goals for the rest of 2017 and 2018?
SM: The team has had a ground breaking year. We medaled in the TTT at the African Continental Championships. That was a first for us! Rwanda will host in 2018; our goal there is to take gold. We also finished 2nd overall in GC at the tour of Eritrea. No small feat and our best showing ever. That result reflected our riders beginning to understand how to use their strengths tactically and a willingness to follow instruction.
BF: You mentioned bike fit before as a big component in the science of cycling and training. How does BikeFit help the team?
SM: BikeFit is at the core of every single bike fit I do. So every single rider on the national team, juniors, women, and men has been in my shop. We ride Sidi shoes with LOOK pedals, so everybody gets a proper fit and I keep their numbers and notes on file. Some riders just benefit from a proper fitting bike. But more than a few riders have overcome strange or serious biomechanics to go from good to serious contenders.
BF: In your opinion, how does bike fitting affect performance?
SM: My belief is that in terms of physicality, mechanics, and power, it’s absolutely foundational. Going from bad mechanics to properly compensated balanced mechanics can add up to 5% to an already elite rider’s top end. For a new athlete working from the ground up, the difference is more or less immeasurable.
BF: What do you think of our wedges?
SM: So far I’ve found everything I need in the products that BikeFit currently ships. The wedges allow for every augmentation I’ve needed to make. I especially like the ability to custom build small changes to insoles to relieve pressure points. Many riders are coming from a village life where they grow up typically wearing sandals and their feet have a few nuances or maybe injuries that when accounted for, really increases the comfort of that kid as a professional athlete.
The wedges also allow for the body to line up with the machine. Riding a bike isn’t a natural action to perform physically, at least not strictly speaking. The body is a series of levers, all of our muscles pull not push. So when the body is locked into a fixed machine, allowing the body to be fixed to that machine in a way that the natural movement of those levers following smooth, straight, efficient pathways is essential. On top of that, when you take into consideration that a week of training for a professional bike racer includes upwards of 100,000 pedals strokes. Even a small imbalance, repeated that many times makes a huge difference.
BF: Can you tell me a story about how some of the bike fitting changes impacted an individual rider?
SM: My favorite story to date is Joseph Areruya. His heels were hitting the cranks and his left knee would shoot over the top tube when we first started working together. He’s a super powerful rider that is time trialing and climbing often well in excess of 400 watts. He has an unusual physiology for cycling with wide frame and stance, so he needed a few more wedges than your average rider. But once he got his foundation built up and he wasn’t losing power, he’s been able to forge ahead. He just recently won stage 4 of the Baby Giro d’Italia. The first UCI Europe win for a Rwandese rider.