2017 Tour du Rwanda stages
Nov. 12: Prologue: 3.3km
Nov. 13: Stage 1 Kigali-Huye 120.3km+ 4 categorized climbs
Nov. 14: Stage 2 Nyanza- Rubavu 180km+ 6 categorized climbs
Nov. 15: Stage 3 Rubavu-Musanze 95km+ 1 massive categorized climb
Nov. 16: Stage 4 Musanze-Nyamata 121km+ 4 categorized climbs
Nov. 17: Stage 5 Nyamata-Rwamagana 93.1km+ 3 categorized climbs
Nov. 18: Stage 6 Kayonza-Kigali 86.3km+ 4 categorized climbs (including the infamous “Mur de Kigali”)
Nov. 19: Stage 7 Kigali-Kigali 120km+ 10 categorized climbs (one per lap of the circuit)
Tour du Rwanda has become a launching pad for riders to make a breakthrough at the international level. This view is echoed by the Rwanda Cycling Federation (FERWACY) president, Aimable Bayingana.
This year’s 9th edition of the annual UCI Africa category 2.2 Road race gets underway on Sunday with the traditional Prologue (Individual Time Trial) covering 3.3km from Amahoro National Stadium-Kimironko-Amahoro National Stadium.
The winner of the first day will start the opening stage, Kigali-Huye (120.3km) wearing the Yellow Jersey in the race expected to be categorised by ascent and stunning scenery, going through different parts of the country.
“Tour du Rwanda keeps getting bigger and better every other year; it has become the biggest annual sporting event in the country. For the riders, sponsors, media and everyone involved with the event, we are hoping to see the exciting race for the next eight days,” Bayingana said during a press conference on Thursday evening.
He added: “The race has gained high reputation and it is reference for us as many of our riders have gone on to get professional teams after competing in Tour du Rwanda. As for our own riders, even their life style has improved.”
Regarding local riders and how they have improved, Bayiangana said, “They (Rwandan riders) have won the race for the last three years and in the process, they have earned some good money to improve their lives. There’s good motivation to win stages for our riders.”
Bayingana noted that Tour du Rwanda has opened the doors, not only for Rwandans but many African riders, “It is a good test for the riders and their career because some of them have got professional teams and we need to keep aiming to make the race even better and more rewarding in terms of prize money.”
Bigger budget and new sponsors
Bayingana revealed that this year’s Tour du Rwanda will cost Rwf500 million, an increase from to Rw400 million that was used last year.
The increased budget has come with arrival of new sponsors that include Rwanda Tea, Rwanda Motorcycle Industry and Rwanda Foam.
The new sponsors join the race’s main backers, who are Ministry of Sports and Culture, SKOL, Cogebanque, Soras, Rwanda Development Board and Inyange Industries, among others.
Bayingana admitted that they expect young home riders will make good impression and tipped Rwanda to win the yellow jersey for a fourth year in a row.
Hosts Rwanda will be represented by three teams namely; Team Rwanda, Benediction Club de Rubavu and Les Amis Sportifs de Rwamagana, each comprising five riders.
“We have so many young riders who will be making their debut, nonetheless, we have high hopes in them to do well as they will be teaming up with experienced teammates, and I think we have a good chance of winning the yellow jersey. The riders have prepared well and we are focused.”
The 2017 Tour du Rwanda will cover a total distance of 819kilometers, and for the second consecutive year, will reach in all the four provinces of the country and Kigali.
The debutants are; René Jean-Paul Ukiniwabo and Didier Munyaneza for Team Rwanda as well as Les Amis Sportifs’ Janvier Rugamba, Jean Claude Mfitumukiza and Jimmy Uwingeneye.
Five new teams
There are five teams that will make their Tour du Rwanda debut this year including; Dukla Banska Bystrica (Slovakia), Team Illuminate (USA), Kenya Riders Safaricom (Kenya), Mauritius National Team and Tirol Cycling Team (Austria).
Japan’s Cycling Academy, who had earlier registered, withdrew to reduce the number of participating teams to 16, including six national teams, five UCI Continental teams and five Club teams.
After becoming part of UCI Africa Tour in 2009, Valens Ndayisenga made history by becoming the first Rwandan rider to win the race in 2014 and since then Rwandan riders have mastered the race.
Jean Bosco Nsengimana won the 2015 edition and Ndayisenga repeated the 2014 feat last year, making him the first rider ever to win the annual race more than once.
Tour du Rwanda to be upgraded
Tour du Rwanda, one of Africa’s most prestigious stage races, will have its rating upgraded by the UCI to 2.1 from 2.2 category in 2019 and will effectively start running from February 24 through March 3.
“The fact that Tour du Rwanda will be upgraded from category 2.2 to 2.1 is proof of its growth. In 2018, the race will be held in August and by 2019 will be at the beginning of the year so as to fit properly into the UCI Calendar,” Bayingana noted.
The Tour du Rwanda, which began in 1980s as a stage race, and has grown in stature since it gained the 2.2 status in 2009 and joins La Tropicale Amissa Bongo as the highest ranked races in Africa.
The UCI classifies road stage races on a four-category scale from the lowest, 2.2, through 2.1, 2.HC and World Tour. As any race moves up the scale, organisers are obliged to provide greater prize money and also the race stages attract more UCI points.
The upgrade will put Tour du Rwanda on par with long-established races such as the Tour de l’Ain, also known as the Prix de l’Amitié (France), Tour de Haut Var (France) and Tour de Yorkshire (England).
Bayingana further disclosed that, Tour du Rwanda which is usually held in November will be moved to March to allow top teams to compete before the World Tour season starts.
“We are going to negotiate with UCI on the possibility of rescheduling Tour du Rwanda around February or March to make it easier for professional teams to participate,” he explained.
Each year, around 70 cyclists from different countries compete in the Tour du Rwanda and estimates show that around 3 million cycling fans line up the roads to watch the week-long event. Rwandan Valens Ndayisenga is the reigning champion.
The total prize money has been US$23,860 (about Rwf19.7 million) but according to Bayingana, it has to increase at least five-fold in 2019.
Complications in race
This being a rainy season, Rwandans will brace the rains and chilly weather once again to cheer their local heroes in what is a gruelling and unpredictable competition with tough circuits across the country.
A total of 80 cyclists grouped in 16 teams from across the world, will for eight days, compete for the yellow jersey.
Full list of teams:
UCI Continental Teams
1. Dimension Data for Qhubeka (South Africa)
2. Tirol Cycling Team (Austria)
3. Team Bike Aid (Germany)
4. Team Illuminate (USA)
5. Dukla Banska Bystrica (Slovakia)
1. Club Benediction de Rubavu (Rwanda)
2. Club Les Amis Sportifs de Rwamagama (Rwanda)
3. Team Lowestrates.com (Canada)
4. Team Haute-Savoie/Auvergne (France)
5. Team Kenya Riders Safaricom (Kenya)
Past winners since 2009
2009: Adil Jelloul (MAR) - Morocco national team
2010: Daniel Teklehaymanot (ERI) - Eritrea national team
2011: Kiel Reijnen (USA) - Team Type 1–Sanofi
2012: Darren Lill (RSA) - South Africa national team
2013: Dylan Girdlestone (RSA) - South Africa national team
2014: Valens Ndayisenga (RWA) - Team Rwanda Karisimbi
2015: Jean Bosco Nsengimana (RWA) – Team Rwanda Karisimbi
2016: Valens Ndayisenga (RWA) - Team Dimension Data