Team Rwanda Cycling assistant coach Felix Sempoma has commended his riders after what he described as “a very positive debut performance” at the just concluded 12th edition of Gabon’s La Tropicale Amissa Bongo race.
Team Rwanda, with six riders of which five were making their debut appearance, was among the 14 teams that competed at Africa’s most grueling road race that was won by Frenchman Gene Yohann, riding for Team Direct Energie (France), in a time of 14 hours, 41 minutes and 21 seconds.
Led by Bonaventure Uwizeyimana, the only Rwandan rider to have won a stage at the annual competition (stage five in 2014), Team Rwanda finished in 7th position out 12 teams that managed to complete the six-stage race.
This was an improvement by one position from last year’s edition when Rwanda fielded a more experienced team.
“The performance was really outstanding, the competition was very tough and some teams didn’t even finish the race, but all our riders completed the race and with good times. I am really happy for them because five out of the six riders were making their debut here,” said Sempoma.
Uwizeyimana was Rwanda’s best performer finishing in the sixth place in the general classification, coming 17 seconds behind Yohann.
Reigning African champion Tesfom Okubamariam, riding for Japan’s UCI Interpro Cycling Academy, finished in the second place, 16 behind the winners, same as Bike Aid’s Holler Nikodemus, who finished in 3rd position.
Sempoma noted that, “The objective was to give our young riders international exposure and from what I have seen here, I am very optimistic that next year, we shall do a lot better.”
Among the debutants, Rene Ukiniwabo finished in 27th place, nine minutes and 49 seconds behind Yohann and Samuel Hakiruwizeye (33), came 10 minutes and 18 seconds later, while Jeremie Karegeya finished 40th, 12 minutes and 44 seconds behind.
Alex Nizeyimana came in the 48th position, 27 minutes and 54 seconds off the leaders while Eric Nduwayo was Team Rwanda’s lowest finisher in 54th place, arriving at the finish line 33 minutes and 57 seconds after the winner.
A total of 82 riders started, but only 71 managed to complete the six-day race. Senegal and Burkina Faso riders failed to finish the race while hosts Gabon pulled out at the last minute.