Adrien Niyonshuti, educated, trailblazer, independent, compassionate, and the most successful of the original five. Adrien lost six of his brothers in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. When he met Coach Jock Boyer in 2006 after winning the first Wooden Bike Classic, he was set to go to University. He was the most educated of the original five riders.
Instead, his life took a decidedly different path.
In 2007, Adrien and Jock teamed up in his first international race, the Cape Epic, the Tour de France of mountain biking. They finished 23rd out of 582 teams, and the cycling world sat up and took notice of this young, shy, quiet man from Rwanda.
In 2008, Adrien, along with his teammate, Nathan Byukusenge, signed with the Continental team, MTN, the only Continental team on the African continent. When Nathan left the team and returned to Rwanda, Adrien stayed and year after year created a life in professional cycling and wrote history time and again.
In late 2010, Adrien missed qualifying for the Olympic road race at the Continental Championships in Rwanda. In early 2011, he came roaring back becoming the first Rwandan to qualify for the Olympics in cycling. He qualified for the 2012 London Olympics in the MTB XCO event. In London, Adrien became the first Rwandan and first black African to complete a mountain bike cycling event at the Olympics.
Adrien continued with his South African based team, MTN, through its various incarnations which eventually became MTN Qhubeka, a South African World Tour team. Adrien was the first Rwandan to ever race on a world tour team.
With his continued success, Adrien continued to be the hope and example the rest of his younger teammates and the next generation of Rwandan cyclists looked toward for guidance. Adrien built a cycling center in his hometown of Rwamagana and continued to give back to the sport. He was also instrumental in helping to developing women's cycling in Rwanda, with most of the early women coming from his hometown.
Although Adrien was unable to spend much time in Rwanda over the past decade, he continued to support his local club, Les Amis Sportif, and his large extended family. He built his mother a house and continued to care for her financially. When his mother had a stroke in 2015, Adrien was able to give her the best medical in Rwanda.
In 2016, Adrien earned a slot for the Olympic road race in Rio. Although a mechanical forced him out of the race, to date he is the only Rwandan to race at two Olympics and in two different cycling disciplines.
At the end of the 2017 season, Adrien married a Rwandan woman he had met while living in Italy. Her family had escaped during the genocide. Unfortunately, his team, now known as Team Dimension Data, did not renew his contract. At 31, Adrien knows his time at the highest levels of cycling is coming to a close.
While he's weighing some of his options at the moment, Adrien has reconnected with his former original five teammates, Obed, Rafiki, Abraham and Nathan, and is in the process of forming a new team and business to promote cycling and develop cyclists in Rwanda. Their team/company name? The Big FIVE!