I'll publish our interview on my blog (http://garyb.posterous.com) prior to the May 11 event.
Q: Tell me about your racing background. A: I saw the Nevada City Classic in the mid 70s as a teenager and that sparked my interest to start bike racing. I won the Nevada City Classic the following year as a junior athlete. I raced nationally and here in N. California for my entire cycling career. I raced with the national team on occasion to do south of the border and European stage races. I would do small international trips to race in other countries. I have ten National Championship medals, all in Cyclo Cross; five gold, four silver, and one bronze. All in Cyclo Cross. I was a better athlete in Cyclo Cross and MTB XC then road racing. I did MTB XC and DH events nationally and internationally. I have competed in 7 UCI Cyclo Cross Word Championships and 1 UCI MTB XC Championship. I ended my cycling career in 1991.
Q: What are you doing these days? A: My wife Katie and I have been married for 24 years and we have one daughter, Rebecca who is 18. We live in San Mateo. Immediately after ending my cycling athlete career I started working for USA Cycling in the coaching department. Chris Carmichael was the head of the USAC coaching department at that time. There were a lot of good people involved with USAC coaching at that time. Coaching education was becoming part of USAC as well. I worked for 7 years with USAC as a regional development coach and the national Cyclo Cross team coach. I have also worked with MTB Team Ritchey and athletes along with Dave McLaughlin for about 2 years. I also was starting to work with athletes independently. Currently I have an office in Burlingame where I coach local athletes, do metabolic testing, biomechanical bike fits, skills clinics and work with local amateur teams and clubs.
Q: How and when did you get involved with Team Rwanda Cycling? A: I always told Jock that if he needed a hand to let me know. After about two years he finally was in a position to have others come and help the team Rwanda Athletes. Jock is dedication to the development, funding, political and technical needs of Team Rwanda and the athletes. He works tirelessly to that end. He has Felix, Max and Kim helping him in Rwanda. In April 2010, Jock and I exchanged emails about the opportunity to come for 3 months. Jock came back to Monterey in July and he, my wife Katie and I met at his warehouse to learn more about the trip to Rwanda. My flight was booked shortly after that and on September 1st I was on a flight to Rwanda.
Q: Tell me about the highlights and lowlights of your three months in Rwanda. A: It was an adventure in the beginning. I was living in Ruhengeri Rwanda about 90 km for the capital city of Kigali for the next three months. I lived in Jock’s house with Max and Zulu, his dog. We had internet at Jock’s house as well. I wanted to help the athletes; test them, do bike fits for them, write training plans for them, identify new talent for the Rwanda team, tech training techniques, tech race tactics, all of that. Unfortunately I didn’t speak Rwandan and their English was very poor. I decided not to learn Rwandan, because I felt that the athletes would benefit much greater if they were to learn English. I found it hard to understand the athletes at times. What motivated them? They loved to ride their bikes. What I would struggle with was did they want to be the best? And what does that mean to them? One athlete was truly of that mold; Adrian. He motivated himself to speak English, use a SRM power meter and is now racing and living in South Africa for a Professional team. Recently, Adrian qualified (for Rwanda) to race the 2012 London Olympics in the MTB XC race. We would have “training camps” weekly with between ten and sixteen athletes. The athletes would get housed and fed at the Project Rwanda house, about a one kilometer from Jocks’ house. The athletes would arrive from far and near to do the training camp. When they arrived they would usually try to find Max (team mechanic) to have him do some needed component replacements and adjustments to their bikes. Max didn’t loan out his tools to the athletes. Scott would ride with the athletes on most days. I would use a motor bike to support the athletes on their daily training rides. I would carry water, spare tubes, a pump, tools and bananas for the athletes. The gas prices in Rwanda are roughly the same as Europe. Jock and Kim have a Ford Explorer in Rwanda. It takes about $90 to fill the gas tank. The main roads are very beat up. Most are dirt. Some of the main roads are in the process of being paved. Our daily training rides were on a paved road out and back. Electricity and water could be a problem. We would lose electricity almost daily. Some times for half a day. There is not enough electricity in Rwanda to provide for all the country. Water was not as big a problem. We had to purify all our cooking and drinking water. Our ion purifier ran off of electricity. We had to make sure our extra stored water supply was always topped off. We did lose water just like electricity, although not as frequently. One time, we were without water for three and half days. Again, Rwanda doesn’t have enough water to supply the whole country. We lived at 6000 feet (2000m). The Volcano National Park and Gorillas sanctuary was very close to us. We would meet European and American tourists sometimes in Ruhengeri at the market or near the hotels. They would come to see the gorillas in the wilderness of Volcano National Park, paying $500 each for the tour. We met the remarkable veterinarians that take care of the Gorillas. The volcano’s peaks were at 10,000 to 14,000 feet (Karisimbi 4507m). We were 25km from the Uganda border and 70km from the Democratic Republic of Congo border. Racing stage races in the best of circumstances can be hard enough. The first three weeks of my last month in Rwanda was spent in the team hotel in Kigali helping the team do the UCI African Continental Championships (RR, TTT & ITT) and the 8 day 9 stage Tour of Rwanda. Prior to the beginning of the competitions and for about a week into the competitions we had a 10 person film crew visit Jock and the team. They wanted to finish a documentary they had started a year ago. The documentary was about the Team Rwanda athletes, their personal connection to the genocide and their successes as athletes that they were now experiencing.
Q: Why do you believe in the Rwandan cyclists? A: I felt that they deserved a chance to pursue what they loved which seemed to be cycling.
Q: How has using your time and talents to help former strangers from a Third World country changed your outlook on life? A: It’s made me feel many things. Glad for all the advantages I have and my family. It humbled me. It may sound cliché, but when you are there for an extended time and you come back to California, you see how true that is. Meeting the New Yorker journalist Philip Gourevitch was very fascinating for me. That only happened because of traveling to Rwanda and working with Team Rwanda. His views and understating of the Rwandan history and future were insightful. Being from a western culture there are Eastern African ideologies I still do not understand. Some people in Rwanda are truly living day to day. I was told that even today the average life expectancy of a Rwandan is 50 years old. I also heard that the average income was $400 annually. Since the 1994 Genocide, Rwanda is experiencing a population explosion. Family sizes are increasing. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame’s was reelected just before I arrived for his second seven year term. So much in America is just about consuming. Being out of the country during the 2010 November midterm elections made me think how American media and the American politicians are way out of touch with the American needs.
Gary J. Boulanger Sales Manager The Bicycle Outfitter www.bicycleoutfitter.com 963 Fremont Avenue Los Altos, CA 94024 650.948.8092 Twitter Facebook
I’d like to share this clip of the film crew that came to Rwanda while I was there. Very cool! This is the film crew that was putting the finishing touches on the movie - Rising From Ashes . enjoy.
A friend of mine made up this web site. It’s primarily to help bring awareness to children’s congenital heart defects and poke a little fun at one of cycling’s greatest athletes. Jens Voigt Facts http://www.jensvoigtfacts.com/
On November 4th to the 20th, while I was in Rwanda there was a 10 person film crew shooting us working with the athletes. The film crew was divided into two teams. It turns out that one team was filming the behind the scenes of the making of the film Rising From Ashes . They were with us some days for 10 plus hours. They worked hard. Here’s the link to their efforts http://www.zacuto.com/bts-trailer . Both movies are due in March and April.
At our house we have two guards/care takers. One of them is always here. Between the two of them they are here 24/7. They work on a 24 hour shift. One is named Joseph and the other is “Rambo”. Rambo it turns out is an athlete that tired out for the Rwanda Cycling team but didn’t make it. He’s also ex military having previously been stationed at the Rwanda and Democratic Republic Congo border. These two work on cleaning up the grounds and taking care of small maintenance issues. They have a small brick guard house next to the main driveway entrance. Our house is also fully enclosed with an 8 foot high wall and steel gated entrance to the drive way, that only opens to let you pass through and closed promptly behind you.
Lately we’ve had some gardeners come to hoe by hand the front yard in preparation for replanting of grass. It took three women gardeners four days to turn the soil. Now the same three are hand planting blades of grass one by one. It will take them another three days to finish. They do this all without any machinery. They bend over for 8 hours a day, the whole time to plant and hoe, back breaking work for most people. I’m guessing this in preparation to make the yard look nice for November when the tour of Rwanda comes to town.
There are also four avocado trees on the property. Two are haas avocado trees and produce several avocados a day. The soil here is rich in nutrients for agriculture. In Ruhengeri there is a big open air produce market. We have some raised garden plots here, but are presently not growing anything.
Our house has two bath rooms, four bed rooms, one kitchen and a front room. There is a detached garage that serves as the bike storage and mechanic room. It’s always locked. You’ve seen photos of the front room with Jock, me and Zulu, Jocks’ dog. In the kitchen we have a small four burner stove that uses a big steal natural gas bottle for it fuel. The beat up looking natural gas bottle sits in the corner. There is a small frig that sits in another corner. It has a few items in it that need refrigeration. Also in the kitchen is a sink for washing dishes and draining dish rack. If you run too much water into the sink at once the drain pipe over flows onto the kitchen floor. There are a couple of shelves with various dried good and seasonings. Fresh veggies are kept in a basket, in yet another corner. The dog and cat get feed in the kitchen.
Our front room serves as ground zero for meetings, dinner, socializing, and office work. I’m writing this at a desk in the front room. There is a fire place in the front room. I’m told that the chimney backs up and smoke comes into the house. We have made a tea and coffee service area on the fire place mantle. There are numerous books and some artifacts as well on the mantle. On the walls there are huge maps of Rwanda, Southern Africa and one of all of Africa. Africa is Huge! There are also some small African paintings and three African masks on the front room walls. There are two large desks. One desk is for Jock and the other for Kim. They both have more computer, printer and copy equipment then “Best Buy” on them.
One of our two bathrooms has a full size laundry machine in it. It drains into the houses only bath tub. The bath tub does not get used. This bathroom also serves as storage for used and new cycling clothing. The other bathroom has a shower stall, toilet, sink and a few shelves. The water comes out hot from the sink and shower. The 2x2 foot space you stand in to take a shower has no shower curtain. If you turn the water flow up the shower nozzle spares water everywhere and the whole bathroom floor gets wet.
All the wall circuits in the house are 220 and every electrical appliance or computer we have is 110. There is a voltage converter on all most every wall contention. Some are big industrial boxes with three prong plugs. Some wall out lets have plug strips in them with. This house was never intended to have this much electrical equipment in it. Our internet is good to poor as long as we have power. There is a heavy gage orange extension cord coming from one of the power strips that goes through the front window to power the Velotron on the front porch. The front porch is 8’x 20’ with a painted concert floor and covered. It serves as a parking space to keep five BMW motor bikes out of the rain.
The bed rooms are nice. One bed room is Jocks and has built in cabinets and faces the front of the house. Another room is Max’s and faces the back of the house. I get a bed room that faces the front of the house and has two beds and one shelf. The forth bed room is for the athletes to use when they come for training camps. It faces the back of the house. All the floors in the house are concert and are painted red. The paint is peeling up all over and in a few spots there are pot hole in the concert floor. There are a few area rugs. The house is on a dead end dirt road. The main paved road is 500 meters from the house. We are in the Musanze area in Ruhengeri.