Effective 2019, Tour du Rwanda will be upgraded from 2.2 to 2.1 road race category of the International Cycling Union (UCI) Africa Tour. This will make it the second biggest road race on the continent after the Gabon’s La Tropicale Amissa Bongo.
To meet the rigorous UCI requirements and regulations for a road race to be considered a 2.1 race category, Rwanda Cycling Federation (FERWACY) had several challenges to fix and these among others included changing the timing of the competition to allow pro-teams to participate, and increasing the prize money.
Normally, Tour du Rwanda is held in November, a period when most World Tour Teams are in summer break.
While unveiling the 2017 Tour du Rwanda road map, Rwanda Cycling Federation president Aimable Bayingana revealed that the two challenges have been addressed and everything is in place to ensure that 2019 marks the start of a new era of the Rwandan cycling flagship race.
This year’s race will be the last to be held in November. The 2018 edition is scheduled to be staged from August 26 to September 2 to allow FERWACY ample time to prepare for the 2019 edition, which is scheduled to run from February 24 through March 3.
“We have agreed everything with our partners including the Ministry of Sports and Culture (MINISPOC) that in 2019, Tour du Rwanda will be upgraded to the 2.1 category where we expect to see teams and riders that usually compete at Tour de France, racing in Rwanda,” said Bayingana.
He added that, “We believe that depending on its organisation, participation and fame, it will definitely become the most famous, toughest and competitive cycling race in Africa.”
On the road to this milestone, FERWACY will also host the 2018 African Continental Road Cycling Championships from February 13-18.
“Preparing for international competitions is something that we have been doing for 10 years, so we don’t have any problem with too many big competitions in a short time,” Bayingana further explained.
According to UCI regulations, for a road race to be considered a 2.1 race category, it has to attract a certain number of UCI World Tour Teams and UCI Professional Continental teams as well as national teams.
During last year’s edition, the total prize money was US$23,860 ( about Rwf19.7 million) and according to Bayingana, it has to increase at least five-fold in 2019.
Tour du Rwanda became part of Africa UCI in 2009 and it has since grown by leaps and bounds, attracting over 450 riders from across the world. Rwanda’s Valens Ndayisenga is the reigning champion.