Rwanda Cycling Federation president Aimable Bayingana has tipped local riders to shine at the inaugural UCI Tour de l’Espoir slated for January 31-February 4 in Cameroon.
“We are fielding a team of riders we strongly believe in,” he told Times Sport in an exclusive interview on Monday. “I have no doubt they will put up an impressive showing.”
Rwanda is among 14 African nations vying for podium finishes at the 4-stage race for U23 national teams. It is the first of its kind on the African continent and one of six such cycling events on UCI calendar, globally.
Asked about the teams to worry about most in Cameroon, a confident Bayingana said: “We have no phobia for any opponent, we are focused on finishing top rather than on on our opponents. But Africa’s cycling powerhouses, such as South Africa, Eritrea, Morocco, Algeria and Ethiopia are the likeliest to give us hard time.”
Led by the reigning Tour du Rwanda and La Tropicale Amissa Bongo champion Joseph Areruya, the riders left the country for Cameroon aboard a RwandAir flight on Monday. The six-rider squad, coached by American-born tactician Sterling Magnell, are scheduled to have a warm-up training session today before the kick-off of the competition on Wednesday.
Bayingana, who is on the board of African Cycling Confederation, is expected to join Team Rwandan delegation in Cameroon where he will meet the riders for a briefing ahead of the race.
Apart from Areruya, Team Rwanda also includes Samuel Mugisha (Areruya’s teammate at Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka of South Africa) , Samuel Hakiruwizeye, Didier Munyaneza, Jean Paul René Ukiniwabo, and Jean Damascene Ruberwa. Obed Ruvogera and Eric Maniriho will serve as team physiotherapist and mechanic, respectively.
At the five-day inaugural edition of the continental showpiece, riders will cover a combined 447 kilometers in four stages. Vietnam is the sole non-African team in the competition.