Following his stellar 2018 season as the African Cyclist of the Year, which he was awarded for last Friday, Rwandan Joseph Areruya has vowed to dream big and set sight on UCI World Tour stage.
The 22-year old who rides for French side Delko Marseille Provence KTM, beat South Africa’s Daryl Impey and Eritrean Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier to the coveted award.
He finished second last year, behind two-time winner Louis Meintjes of South Africa.
“I love this sport, it changed my life. I hope winning this award, which was a dream-come-true, is my stepping stone to bigger milestones. I want to go beyond this stage and compete in major professional cycling races in the world.”
His victories at La Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon in January and the inaugural U23 Cup of Nations, Tour de l’Espoir, in Cameroun in February as well as his four medals at this year’s African Continental Road Championships in Kigali impressed the jury, which was chaired by five-time Tour de France champion Bernard Hinault.
“I did incredibly well this year, but this accolade is beyond me as an individual – my teammates contributed a lot for it to happen. Winning it is a sign that nothing is impossible when you put your heart to it, and that feels like the beginning for me. My target is to compete in the world’s biggest cycling events,” Areruya added.
This year’s Tour du Rwanda champion, Samuel Mugisha, finished sixth on the 15-man shortlist for the award while compatriot Bonaventure Uwizeyimana came in 14th position. This is the first time that Rwanda had more than two riders in Africa’s best 15 cyclists.
Meanwhile, holder Areruya will lead Team Rwanda at the 2019 La Tropicale Amissa Bongo next month as he bids to become the first African rider to win the race more than once.
Other riders on the six-man roster include; the 2018 Tour du Rwanda champion Samuel Mugisha, Bonaventure Uwizeyimana, Didier Munyaneza, Jean Claude Uwizeye and debutant Yves Nkurunziza
For the first time, the week-long UCI Africa 2.2 category race will cross from Gabon to Equatorial Guinea via Cameroun.
The 14th edition of the annual race will tip off on January 21 and run through January 27, with the 15-team peloton – a total of 90 riders – covering 860 kilometers over the seven stages.