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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March 2005, 16:07 GMT
Ouagadougou's moped madness
By Catherine Fellows
BBC, Ouagadougou

The bikers lie flat on their machines to give them speed
Ouagadougou is famous for its mopeds. In every corner of this dusty, rust red city you can hear the not very frightening roar of 50 cc bikes.

They are the perfect mode of transport for this small African capital, especially considering that many here can't afford to own a car.

So, 11 years ago, one of Ouagadougou's more dynamic citizens, Thiomiano Moustapha, was inspired to start an annual moped race around the city.

Mr Moustapha is also the man who established Burkina Faso's first independent radio station, Horizon FM.

Moped madness

This year, some 500 young men - and one woman - risked their skins for the big prize - a brand new bike.

bikers at fespaco 2005
Ouagadougou's motor bike race is held every year

Many were awake at 0300 perfecting their skills on the empty roads.

They have more or less equal engines, so the speed is all in the rider's style.

To make themselves more aerodynamic, they lie horizontally on the bikes, heads down, legs straight out behind and this in nothing more protective than T-shirts and flip flops.

This year and last year, however, helmets were compulsory.

At 0600, all 15 miles of Ouagadougou's main thoroughfare, l'Avenue Charles de Gaulle, was lined with people.

At the starting point, people climbed trees to get a better view, and the roofs of buildings were packed.


In fact, there was such a throng, and no barriers, that at times the crowd spilled over onto the road and was beaten back by police truncheons.

Finally, at 0900, it was time for Mr Moustapha, flamboyant in his Stetson, to start the race. Photographers were nearly mown down as the 500 jostle for position, and several came off.

Thiomiano Moustapha
Thiomiano Moustapha established the race 11 years ago

The bikes have to do five rounds, and the excitement builds with each one. Miraculously no one was seriously hurt, despite the acrobatics of the riders, and the closeness of the crowd.

As the winner drew in, it was claimed that he travelled at 150 km per hour. He was 20 years old, and this was the sixth time he had entered the race.

So, how did he manage to win this time?

"I prepared myself mentally and physically."

Another thing, he'd come to avenge being beaten into third place last year.

Timeline: Burkina Faso
13 Nov 04 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Burkina Faso
12 Feb 05 |  Country profiles

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