After eight days of dominating the lives of riders and fans alike, the curtain finally came down on 2019 Tour du Rwanda, an edition that will be remembered as one in which Rwandan riders reaped little – other than cycling lessons – having dominated the annual UCI Africa Tour race for the last five years.
Eritrean riders (Team Eritrea) topped the team classification, won the King of the Mountains (KoM) and the best young rider jerseys, while Astana Pro Team’s Eritrean Merhawi Kudus soared to victory as the new champion of the race.
Out of the seven jerseys that were up for grabs, including the highly coveted yellow jersey, Rwandans only managed to keep one home – the Rwanda Tea jersey for most combative rider through youngster Moise Mugisha, whom many think is the next big thing in Rwanda cycling.
Maybe what was even more shocking is that no Rwandan rider was able to win a stage, making it the first time it has happened in seven years – since the 2012 edition.
Joseph Areruya, the 2017 Tour du Rwanda winner and the reigning African Cyclist of the Year, was the only Rwandan to finish in the top ten in the general classification – in ninth position.
However, there are many positives from the race for the Rwandan riders. One of them is the fact that they were able to compete with more elite riders – than was the case during previous editions – and it’s not as if the Rwandan boys did not put up a fight.
It had been expected anyway that Rwandans would be given a run for their money as Tour du Rwanda this time around with the race now a UCI 2.1 category race, making it only the second African cycling event in that bracket along with Gabonese race La Tropicale Amissa Bongo.
The 953.6km race, of eight stages, attracted high-caliber teams and renowned cyclists – including four former Tour de France participants, who are hugely experienced in such demanding races. The potential for our riders is there, and last week’s performance doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, suggest otherwise.
Millions of spectators across the country again lined the streets to welcome the riders and enjoy the race, billed as the biggest on the continent, and we have Rwanda Cycling Federation (Ferwacy) and partners to thank for organising yet another phenomenal Tour du Rwanda.
Rwandan riders should use this valuable experience as a basis to work and train harder for future competitions.