Tour du Rwanda 2024 is just days away from kickoff with so much at stake for international cyclists from the 20 teams that confirmed their participation in the race. Reigning race winner Henock Mulubrhan won’t be able to defend his 2023 glory after suffering an injury but his countryman Merhawi Kudus will be making a return to the race he won back in 2019, the same year the cycling event was sanctioned to 2.1 UCI Tour. Covering a total distance of 740 km, and considering other indications and precedents, a host of world’s top riders will be looking to light up the 2024 edition of the game of leg muscle, mental fitness, and timing. READ ALSO: Four new teams added to Tour du Rwanda 2024 lineup Times Sport looks at 10 top riders worth keeping eyes on at the eight-stage cycling event. Merhawi Kudus (Eritrea) All eyes will be on Kudus who returns to Tour du Rwanda for the first time since 2019 when he won the race riding for UCI Continental team Terengganu Cycling Team. The 30-year-old will come back for the third time with a hunch and ambition to add the 2024 race to his collection of victories globally. Kudus was named in the start list for the 2015 Tour de France, becoming one of the first two black Africans to start the Tour alongside teammate and countryman Daniel Teklehaimanot. He is the only former Tour du Rwanda 2.1 winner expected to headline the 2024 edition. Chris Froome (Israël Premier Tech) The Four-time Tour de France winner has confirmed his return to Tour du Rwanda, his second appearance in a row. The Briton, 37, will be riding for Israel Premier Tech, one of the 20 teams that confirmed their participation at this year’s race. The Kenyan-born rider won seven world cycling championships including four Tour de France wins, twice at the Vuelta, the Giro d’Italia, and the Tour of Spain but he still wants to win more and Tour du Rwanda seems to be his next target this year. He failed to impress during the 2023 edition and bets are still on him as hot favorites for the 2024 Rwandan race. Froome's last pro win came at the 2018 Giro d'Italia, when he staged a phenomenal turnaround on the road to Bardonecchia with an 80km solo ride. Jonathan Restrepo (Team Polti Kometa) Restrepo is pretty familiar with the Tour du Rwanda where he won some stages in previous editions. His ambition this year is now more than just claiming a stage as he seeks to use his experience to win the race overall. During the 2022 Tour du Rwanda, Restrepo, who was riding for UCI ProTeam Team Polti Kometa, put on a spectacular performance to clinch his first-ever Tour du Rwanda stage. The 29-year-old Colombian will rank among the most experienced riders; thus, his role will be extended to being a mentor, besides delivering results himself. Pierre Latour (Total Energies) Pierre Latour, 30, is an experienced French cyclist who currently rides for UCI ProTeam Team TotalEnergies. Having won a stage in the Tour of Spain both in 2016 and 2018, the rider will be up for a victory at Tour du Rwanda. Latour became the best climber of the last Grande Boucle and has no shortage of requests. After impressive performances in Spain, France and Switzerland, he is now vying for a yellow jersey in the Rwandan race. William Junior Lecerf (Soudal Quick-Step) The 21-year-old Belgian rider is enjoying a smooth ride in the U23 ranks and turning pro with Soudal Quick-Step this year. He is one of the favourites to win the race, one the most competitive in Africa, considering his consistency in form. Lecerf is one of the riders who managed to win at least a stage during the Tour du Rwanda 2023. Having adapted to Rwandan routes, you cannot rule him out of the hot favorites to win this year’s edition. He lost the race to Henock Muluberhan by just a second and he is primed to make a strong comeback against the Eritrean. Eric Muhoza (Team Rwanda) The 22-year-old will be carrying Rwanda on his shoulders as he looks to break the country’s five-year jinx and become the first Rwandan to win Tour du Rwanda since it was sanctioned to 2.1 in 2019. Muhoza was riding for German team Bike Aid when he finished 14th on Tour du Rwanda 2023 general classification, losing the yellow jersey by eight minutes and 30 seconds. He switched to Kenyan side Amani but, considering that the team won’t be competing in the race, he will be representing the national team (Team Rwanda). Currently ranked 1583th in the UCI Ranking, Muhoza remains the only hope for Rwanda to do what the likes of Moise Mugisha, Jean Bosco Nsengimana, and Eric Manizabayo are failing to achieve: keeping the Tour du Rwanda triumph at home. Eric Manizabayo (Team Rwanda) The Rwandan cyclist is one of the most decorated riders, in the junior category, on the domestic scene since the inception of the Rwanda Cycling Cup, in 2015. Fresh from impressing at the 2024 Tour Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Manizabayo is only dreaming of making Rwandans proud at Tour du Rwanda 2024. Moritz Kretschy (Israël Premier Tech Academy) Kretschy, 21, comes to Tour du Rwanda 2024 best ranked (496th) in the UCI Rankings, having so far won two UCI races. It will be a new route for the German but coming to Tour leading an elite team like Israel Premier Tech simply attracts attention to cycling enthusiasts as a favorite to win the race. Gal Glivar (UAE) Currently riding for UAE Team Emirates Gen Z, Gal Glivar is one of the promising stars to watch at Tour du Rwanda. At just 21, the Slovenian has competed in different events including Tour of Sharjah, Orlen Nations Grand Prix, Carpathian Couriers Race in memory of Wacław Felcz, Carpathian Couriers Race in memory of Wacław Felcz, Tour of Sharjah, CRO Race, Orlen Nations Grand Prix, GP Gorenjska and Okolo Slovenska /Tour de Slovaquie. Dawit Yemane (Bike Aid) Dawit Yemane is an Eritrean cyclist, who currently rides for UCI Continental team Bike Aid. In 2021, he won the Eritrean National Road Race Championship and later competed in the road race at the 2021 UCI Road World Championships. Yemane, 26, is not new to the Rwandan routes, having previously competed in Tour du Rwanda 2023 only to lose it by 59 seconds. With so many races in his legs, Yemane is back with new ambitions to fight for the yellow jersey at all costs.