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Cyclists Converge on Burkina Faso for Tour de Faso Competition

More than 100 cyclists from around the world are pedaling their way across Burkina Faso this week in the 20th annual Tour de Faso. Burkinabes are passionate for the event.

In the capital Ouagadougou, police try to hold back excited crowds as cyclists enter the city.

After the races speed by, one spectator says it was a thrill to see the caravan. He says he was not able to catch it on television, so he went to see it in person.

The Tour de Faso is Africa's premier cycling event. Twelve of the 18 national teams are from the continent.

It is run by the organizers of the Tour de France, a race known for its often challenging mountain segments. In mostly flat Burkina Faso, unpaved roads were recently added to the course to raise the level of difficulty.

But even non-sports fans come to the race, to enjoy concerts organized at the end of each stage, festivities often lasting well into the night.

Burkina Faso's state-run television produces a special show every night, with highlights from the race and that night's celebrations. The race is also a busy time for the country's sporting press.

Reporter Marcel Belem, with the Sidaya Sport journal, says, everything but cycling gets thrown out during the Tour de Faso. The normally bi-weekly paper even prints a special edition every day.

Belem says many in Burkina Faso have high hopes one of their own will win. Burkinabes have won 10 of the past 19 Tours.

The cycling fever will subside, for another year at least, when the cyclists finish their last stage Sunday in the capital, Ouagadougou.