The Tour de Bénin, which finished last Sunday, took riders on a seven-day, 621km journey through the West African country. The host nation had two teams taking part, and although they did not feature at the top of the classification, the event’s Director General Romuald Hazoumè was full of praise for their performances.
“I am very proud of the Beninese rider’s results…” declared Hazoumè, also President of the Fédération Béninoise de Cyclisme (FBC), in an interview with Benin Web TV. Two of ‘his’ athletes finished in the top 20 of the overall classification: “They animated the stages, they attacked, they put the other riders under pressure,” he said, before adding that “if we work well we will win.”
Voted to the head of the Federation in May 2017, Hazoumè is known in Benin for his long-term commitment to cycling. He has worked tirelessly since his election to develop cycling in his own country, and sees the Tour de Benin as an ideal occasion to promote the sport and enable the country’s riders to measure up against their counterparts from abroad: “Beninese cyclists are more than ever determined to make a name for themselves in competitions in African and international events,” he declared just days before the event kick-off.
This 15th edition of the Tour de Benin started in Tanguiéta and finished in Cotonou, passing through Porto-Novo, Lokossa and a new venture through the north of the country. The two Beninese teams were joined by teams from Togo, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Already this year, results of Beninese riders –among others, at the 30th edition of Tour du Faso or at the last Continental Championships in February - have generated much hope for the future. The Team B also lined up at the Tour Cycliste International du Togo at the beginning of April, while the Team A wore the national colours at the Tour du Sénégal two week later.
Romuald Hazoumè credits much of the progress made so far to the signing of a three-year partnership agreement with Sobrera, the Brewery Association of Benin, which has facilitated the implementation of changes with well-defined activities and the provision of equipment.
With the help of a new, dynamic and dedicated team, the President is slowly beginning to build up cycling in Benin. The Federation has enabled its teams to attend various training sessions around the world as part of its development plan. It is also building entire teams of commissaires, coaches and mechanics.
Benin has been looking to innovate, and that began with the hosting of an official race in Banikouara, in the north of the country. Held on 18 March 2018, its principal aim was to uncover new talent. 200 riders took to the start line, and enthusiastic large crowds lined the route.
The Men Elite race served as a test for future representatives of the National team, ahead of the Tour du Lomé and the Tour du Sénégal.
Following that race, the Mayor of Banikoara, lent his support to the best riders from his area and made a commitment to open a cycling club in his town. After Banikoara, the aim is to extend this type of talent-spotting race to Glzoué and Djougou, with the intention of taking the best 10 riders from each region to a final in Lokossa in June.