Effective 2019, Tour du Rwanda will be upgraded from 2.2 to 2.1 road race category of the International Cycling Union (UCI) Africa Tour, according to Rwanda Cycling Federation (FERWACY) president Aimable Bayingana.
That will make the annual cycling competition, that became part of the UCI Africa Tour in 2009, the second biggest road race tour on the continent after the Gabon’s La Tropicale Amissa Bongo.
Bayingana revealed the development on Tuesday in an exclusive interview with Times Sport during which he disclosed that talks between FERWACY and their partners regarding the upgrading of the prestigious event had been successfully concluded with the next endeavour being implementation, which is due 2019.
“We have finalised the discussions with all our partners, sponsors, and the Ministry of Sports and Culture,” Bayingana said.
According to UCI regulations, for a road race to be considered a 2.1 race category, it has to attract many UCI World Tour Teams and UCI professional continental teams, as well as UCI continental and national teams.
But before Tour du Rwanda could become a 2.1 race, officials will have to first fix two challenges: changing the timing of the competition to allow pro-teams to participate, and increasing the prize money.
Tour du Rwanda is held in November during which most World Tour Teams are in summer break.
“We are going to negotiate with UCI on the possibility of rescheduling Tour du Rwanda around February or March to make it easier for professional teams to participate,” Bayingana said.
He said, to allow for smooth transition, next year’s edition will be staged around August.
“Regarding the prize money, we are hoping to increase it by five to eight times,” Bayingana added.
During last year’s edition, the total prize money was US$23,860 (approx. Rwf19,677,863.64), meaning the planned increase would take this to between US$119,300 (approx. Rwf98,389,318.20) and US$190,880 (Rwf157,422,909.12).
Tour du Rwanda was established in 1988 before going on to become part of Africa UCI in 2009.
It has since grown by leaps and bounds, attracting over 450 riders from across the world.