Team Belgium’s Frans Claes and Jens Schuermans were off to an impressive start at the 2022 Rwandan Epic as they formed an incredible combination to successfully win the Kigali-Kigali prologue of the race that kicked off in Kigali on Tuesday, November 1. The five-stage mountain bike race started with a huge interest from hundreds of cycling fans across Kigali before it crossed different hilly places of high altitude nationwide. More than 100 mountain bike riders from 12 nationalities are Rwanda for the 2022 edition which was officially inaugurated by national cycling governing body (Ferwacy) president, Abdallah Murenzi. From Kigali to the northern and western parts of the country, they have up to 300 kilometres to conquer and more than 5,000 meters to climb. Riders raced from Fazenda Sengha, an outdoor recreational center on top of Mount Kigali, in Nyamirambo, as the prologue departure. They headed to the north, crossing the new road of Norvege, and then down to the stone paved road behind the Kigali Stadium. They then climbed the paved road to Mount Kigali, where they had a final technical course in the forest. Claes and Schuermans, who are competing at the race for the first time, won the prologue as they look to dethrone Rwanda’s elite rider, Jean Eric Habimana, who is also determined to defend his title alongside his new teammate, Tumelo Makae, a third-ranked rider in Lesotho. The Belgian duo came to the race rated among the favorites prior to this year’s edition given the fact that Claes is Belgian mountain bike marathon champion. Schuermans is the Belgian mountain bike cross country champion. They easily won the opening stage after covering an arguably short prologue of barely 9 kilometers with some 300 meters of climbing in 27 minutes and 32 seconds. They opened a gap of 3 minutes and 23 seconds ahead of Kenyan Kenneth Karaya and Ugandan Jordan schleck who finished second while Rwanda’s Habimana and his Lesotho counterpart finished third with 3 minutes 41 seconds behind. It was beautiful, but I still had to go deep. It was extremely hot today and that hit my lungs. I then saved my strength a bit for the next few days anyway, said Claes after winning the prologue on Tuesday. Meanwhile, race debutant Makae said he remains positive that he and his teammate Habimana can turn the classification around in the next stages despite finishing third in the opening stage. It is my first time riding with Jean Eric as a team. The collaboration went really well. Halfway, there was a super steep single-track and then I had to let go for a while. On the descent I turned out to be faster, so I do think we complement each other well, he said. The race resumes Wednesday, November 2, with riders taking on the second stage, also known as the “queen stage” – from Rusiga to Musanze. It is regarded as a tough ride of 100 kilometers and more than 2,600 meters of climbing.