Amissa Bongo 2020: Team Rwanda look for strong start

Joseph Areruya (2018) is one of the only two former winners in this year’s race, along with Eritrean Natnael Berhane who won the 2014 edition. File

Monday (Stage 1)
Bitam – Ebolowa (150 km)

Team Rwanda riders will be looking for a strong start when the 15th La Tropicale Amissa Bongo gets underway in Bitam, Gabon, on Monday.

Felix Sempoma and his six-man selection seek to win the famous Gabonese race for a second time in three attempts following the 2018 victory through Joseph Areruya after holding onto coveted Yellow Jersey from Stage 4.

This year’s edition of the annual race, with a record distance 1,035 kilometres under seven stages, will pass through five provinces of the Central African country with an incursion into neighbouring Cameroon.

In an interview with Times Sport, tactician Sempoma said that he had confidence in the team and abilities within each of the selected riders.

Since arriving in Gabon on Friday, the team had a couple of training sessions to acclimatize, with the final warm-up on Sunday afternoon.

“The riders are doing well, and ready for the race,” said Sempoma.

“We have been together for some time in camp. I have spoken with the riders about the tough mission in Gabon, they all understand the challenge and are fit and mentally prepared.”

The star-studded line-up is captained by the 2018 Tour du Rwanda champion Samuel Mugisha, who will co-lead with Areruya – the 2017 Tour du Rwanda winner.

The team also includes Moise Mugisha, Didier Munyaneza, Jean Claude Nzafashwanayo and Renus Byiza Uhiriwe. The latter is making his debut at Amissa Bongo after writing history as the youngster winner of the Rwanda Cycling Cup last year.

“We want to start on a high so as to set (good) pace for the next six stages. The target is to win the race, but we won’t let it distract us. We will take it a stage at a time,” Sempoma further added.

A total of 90 riders will start Stage 1 in Oyem, Northern Gabon, representing a record 17 nationalities.

“We have been working hard in preparations for the last couple of weeks and we believe we can win this race again. That is exactly what we are targeting,” team captain Mugisha said in a separate interview.

“We will try to do well in Stage 1, and build on that going forward.”

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