Top cyclists hail growing stature of Tour du Rwanda

The 2017 Tour du Rwanda was by far the most successful since the annual race became an international competition in 2009, according to some of the riders who competed in the 9th edition that climaxed on Sunday.
Tour du Rwanda 2017 winner Joseph Areruya (L) and compatriot Valens Ndayisenga gave glowing tribute to the  race that has been won by Rwandans since 2014. / Sam Ngendahimana
Tour du Rwanda 2017 winner Joseph Areruya (L) and compatriot Valens Ndayisenga gave glowing tribute to the race that has been won by Rwandans since 2014. / Sam Ngendahimana

General Classification

Top 10
1. Joseph Areruya - Dimension Data for Qhubeka 20:21:29
2. Metkel Eyob - Dimension Data for Qhubeka 0:28
3. Suleiman Kangangi - Bike Aid 1:29
4. Jean Bosco Nsengimana - Team Rwanda 2:10
5. Patrick Byukusenge - Team Rwanda 3:08
6. Valens Ndayisenga - Tirol Cycling Team 3:19
7. Matthieu Jeannes -Team Haute Savoie - Auvergne Rhône Alpes 3:24
8. Didier Munyaneza - Team Rwanda 3:57
9. Tesfom Okubamariam -Eritrea 4:26
10. Simon Pellaud- Team Illuminate 5:45
11. Kent Main -Dimension Data for Qhubeka 6:32

The 2017 Tour du Rwanda was by far the most successful since the annual race became an international competition in 2009, according to some of the riders who competed in the 9th edition that climaxed on Sunday.

This year’s race was claimed by Joseph Areruya, riding for South African UCI Continental Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, becoming the third Rwandan to win it after Valens Ndayisenga (2014 and 2016) and Jean Bosco Nsengimana (2015).

(L-R) Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, State Minister in MININFRA  Uwihanganye and FERWACY Boss share a smile during the closing ceremony of Tour du Rwanda on Sunday.
Areruya and his father Jean Marie Vianney Gahemba.
Cogebanque promoters that were touring in Tour du Rwanda.
Eritrea National Team cyclist Mebrahtom Natnael finished the race as the best climber of Tour du Rwanda.

Areruya also won two stages during the eight-day, seven-stage race, including the sprint in Musanze (Stage 3: Rubavu – Musanze, 95km) and Stage 1 (Kigali – Huye, 120.3km).
The former Les Amis Sportif de Rwamagana rider benefited from the work and the great strategy of his team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, the top team in Africa , that’s also the number 2 team of the World Tour.

The victory is a reward for Areruya’s investment in training, which has already allowed him to become the first Rwandan rider to win a UCI race, at the U23 Tour of Italy, in June.

“I am proud to join Valens (Ndayisenga) and Bosco (Nsengimana) as winners of the Tour du Rwanda. Winning in front of my fans gives me even more strength,” said Areruya on Sunday.

Eyob Metkel celebrates his victory as he crossed the finish line at Nyamirambo.
FERWACY President Aimable Bayingana speaks to the media.
Former Team Rwanda head coach Jock Boyer and the current coach Sterling Magnell with some local riders celebrate the victory of Areruya Joseph.
Prime Minister Ngirente congratulates Tour du Rwanda winner Joseph Areruya during the closing event of the Tour.

The last stage was won by Ndayisenga, who equaled the record of the greatest number of stage victories on the Tour of Rwanda (5) held since Saturday by Metkel Eyob. The Eritrean finished second on the podium, like in 2016, followed by Kenyan Suleiman Kangangi (Team Bike Aid of Germany).

“Our target at the start of the Tour was to challenge for the title, nothing changed until the end. Personally, I had to give my best and with help of my teammates, we have been able to achieve our goals,” Areruya noted, adding that, “for me, this has been the most successful Tour du Rwanda.”

Meanwhile, Simon Pellaud, who rides for American UCI Continental Team Illuminate said: “The Tour du Rwanda was the perfect way to finish my 2017 season! I am happy to be going home for some rest and family time. I have had a good time in Rwanda and hope to come back next year.”

The 25-year-old former Swiss U23 national champion, Pellaud won stage 2: Nyanza - Rubavu (180km), the longest stage in Tour du Rwanda, and which has never been won by a Rwandan rider.

Areruya’s Dimension Data teammate, Kent Main, noted: “It is officially time for a well-deserved ‘off season’.

Stage 4 winner Eritrean Eyob Metkel and his teammate  Main Kent  in action climbing Kirenge mount in Rurindo.
Team Illuminate rider Simon Pellaud celebrates his victory of stage 2 from Nyanza to Rubavu.
Team Illuminate rider Simon Pellaud won stage 2 of Tour du Rwanda  from Nyanza to Rubavu.
Team Rwanda captain Jean Bosco Nsengimana was given a brand new motobike to recognize his performance to be the best local rider in the general classification.

Two-time Tour du Rwanda winner, Ndayisenga said that “Tour du Rwanda has become probably one of the most supported tours in the world. I am proud to be part of a race in a country which loves cycling so much.”

This year’s edition attracted 15 teams, including five national teams, five UCI continental teams and five clubs. The national teams were Mauritius, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Algeria and hosts Rwanda.

The UCI continental teams were: Dimension Data for Qhubeka (South-Africa), Tirol Cycling Team (Austria), Team Illuminate (USA), Bike Aid (Germany), and Dukla Banska Bystrica (Slovakia).

Tour du Rwanda 2017 winner Joseph Areruya (c) Eyob Metkel (L) and Suleiman Kangage celebrate the victory on Sunday. / Sam Ngendahimana
Tour du Rwanda 2017 winner Joseph Areruya becomes the third Rwandan to win the race after Valens Ndayisenga and Jean Bosco Nsengimana.
Two time Tour du Rwanda winner Valens Ndayisenga celebrates his crucial victory of stage 7 of Tour du Rwanda.

Regional or club teams were; Club Benediction de Rubavu (Rwanda), Club Les Amis Sportifs de Rwamagana (Rwanda), Team (Canada), Team Haute-Savoie / Auvergne Rhône-Alpes (France) and Team Kenya Riders Safaricom (Kenya).

Out of the 73 riders that had started the race on November 12, only 57 completed the race. The 2017 Tour du Rwanda covered a total distance of 819 kilometres.

Areruya and other riders acknowledged that the results were satisfactory and now all eyes will be on next year’s edition, which will be held from August 5-12.