British cycling great Chris Froome said Friday he has high hopes for the future of the sport in Africa as he returned to the continent of his birth.
The four-time Tour de France winner, who was born in Kenya, is the star attraction at the Tour du Rwanda which runs from Saturday to February 26.
“I’d love to do more racing in Africa and I think Africa is definitely going to be the continent where we see the biggest profiles in cycling in the next decade,” Froome told AFP.
He was speaking at the opening of a training centre in Bugesera in eastern Rwanda developed by his Israel-Premier Tech team under their “Racing for Change” campaign.
“I think projects like this will go a long way in helping to bring the next generation of professional cyclists to Europe. When I grew up in Kenya, we didn’t have anything like this.
“So, it’s great to see this take shape and I believe in the next decade we’re going to see the fruits of this project.”
He highlighted the success of the 22-year-old Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay, the first black African to win a stage on any of cycling’s three grand tours.
“I think having role models is hugely important. So Africans who have managed to get to Europe and get to the highest level of racing, it demonstrates that it is possible for Africans to reach that level.”
Rwanda, known as the land of a thousand hills, will be hosting cycling’s Road World Championships in 2025, a first for Africa.
Froome, who posted pictures of himself on Twitter trying out the Begesera training track, said the Tour du Rwanda was the first time he has competed in Africa in about 14 years.
“It’s going to be a different style of racing from what we are used to in Europe, but I’m going to take one day at a time and just get through with the best I can,” the 37-year-old said.
Asked about his own prospects for success this year, Froome said: “My hopes this season are to get (to the) Tour de France in as good a shape as possible.”
Froome’s Israeli team Israel-Premier Tech secured a wild card for this year’s Tour de France, the world biggest bike race.
He had to drop out of last year’s event after testing positive for Covid-19.
Froome, who claimed the last of his Tour successes in 2017, is fighting back after suffering career-threatening injuries in a 2019 high-speed crash.