Rwanda has jumped three places to the second position in Africa in the latest Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) ranking.
According to the new ranking, released on Tuesday, Rwanda’s best rider and reigning Tour due Rwanda champion Valens Ndayisenga is ranked fifth on the continent, up from sixth late last year.
Only Morocco are ranked higher than Team Rwanda in Africa.
The ranking is a major boost for Team Rwanda’s chances to compete in 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Jeneiro, Brazil.
At the end of 2014, Rwanda ranked fifth in Africa, and the latest development has largely been attributed to the country’s strong showing at the recent Tour of Egypt, earlier this month.
In the latest ranking, Morocco accumulated 72 points and Rwanda 14.
Eritrea and Algeria are in third and fourth, respectively, with two points apiece.
The latest ranking saw Rwanda move above Eritrea, Algeria and South Africa for the first time.
Ndayisenga, 20, boosted his status when he dramatically won the prologue in the Tour of Egypt this year.
Spanish rider Francisco Mancebo Perez, who plies his trade with Dubai-based Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling, is the top ranked rider in Africa, followed by Italian Andrea Palini of Team Lampre-Merida (Italy), Moroccan Soufiane Haddi and United Arab Emirates, Yousef Mirza Banihammad.
Ndayisenga started his career in “Les Amis Sportifs” in Rwamagana, the same club that South Africa-based rider Adrien Niyonshuti started his career from.
The qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games will be based on performances in different cycling races on the continent.
If Jonathan Boyer’s team can hold onto their second spot on the continent, they would almost certainly qualify for the Olympic Games due next year.
UCI will use a new strategy of awarding points to African countries instead of the previous format of using professionals to compete in Olympic Games.
Last year, Ndayisenga became the youngest rider and first Rwandan to win the Tour du Rwanda competition since it got incorporated on the International Cycling Union (UCI) calendar in 2009.
Fighting till the end
“The belief has always been there but now we are in a good position to achieve our dream. We will keep fighting hard so that we don’t lose ground,” said the Rwanda cycling federation president Aimable Bayingana.
He added; “We know countries like South Africa and Algeria will work hard to improve their ranking but we are committed to keeping surging ahead.”
The points of World Tours will this time not be used for African qualifications, meaning points scored by individual riders will longer be awarded to their respective countries.
In 2012, Team Rwanda captain Adrien Niyonshuti became the first black African to compete in Olympic Games – in the Mountain Bike racing in London.