Rwanda’s top cyclist Adrien Niyonshuti will go head to head with some of the world’s best riders including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong in the three-day Tour of Ireland. The 577km race takes off today in the Irish capital Dublin.
The 29-year-old, who won the Kwita Izina event a few months ago, will rub shoulders with some of the world’s elite cyclists in Mark Cavendish, who won six stages in the 2009 Tour de France and Armstrong, who came out of retirement to finished third.
Niyonshuti, two-time Tour de Rwanda winner, will be racing for his South African based team MTN Energade.
Sixteen teams are competing in the event. They include; Astana led by Armstrong, Team Columbia HTC, Irish national team, An Post –Sean Kelly team, Saxo Bank, Cervelo Test Bank, Rapha Condor, Candi TV Marshall Pasta, Australia National team, Joker-Bianchi, Rabo Bank, BMC Racing, ISD Neri, MTN Energade, Team type 1 and Team Halfords Bike Hut.
The race will be in three stages. Stage one which runs from Ritz carton to Waterford will cover a distance of 196km.
Stage two from Clonmel to Killarmey will go for the same distance (196km) while the third and final stage will go for 185km from Bantry to Cork.
The race will be preceded by a one-minute silence in tribute to Ireland’s legendary rider Paul Healion, who was killed in a road traffic accident last weekend.
Healion had been selected to ride with the Irish team this weekend and the popular rider will not be replaced.
Rwanda’s National Cycling Federation (Ferwacy) technical director Jonathan Boyer, who also doubles as Team Rwanda coach reckons that the race will boost Niyonshuti’s experience.
“It is a phenomenon opportunity for Niyonshuti to race against the likes of Lance Armstrong,” Boyer said.