D-Day for Tour du Rwanda 2019 as race enters new 2.1 category era

Tens of cyclists are seen here in a mass peloton shortly after being flagged off during Stage 1 of the 2018 Tour du Rwanda in Rwamagana District. Sam Ngendahimana


Stage 1: Kigali – Rwamagana – Kigali (112.5 km)

The highly anticipated inaugural edition of Tour du Rwanda as a UCI 2.1 category race – from 2.2 category – gets underway with Stage 1 this morning at Amahoro Stadium, making a 112.5km journey from Kigali to Rwamagana District and back to the capital.

The overall race will have a total course of 959.1 kilometres.

The 11th edition of the annual UCI Africa Tour race will be flagged off at Amahoro Stadium and end with a short lap in Kicukiro, with a big loop through Rwamagana in Eastern Province in the middle, which is expected to be a field for the sprinters since the terrain is mostly flat.

Team Rwanda coach Sterling Magnell says that his riders are in good shape and high spirits to challenge for the highly coveted race’s yellow jersey, which no foreign rider has won since 2014.

After seven days of tackling steep climbs and sharps descends across the country, the winner of this year’s Tour du Rwanda will be determined on the ultimate stage (Stage 8) with the infamous ‘Wall of Kigali’ which the 16-team peloton will climb three times before heading to the finish at Kigali stadium, in Nyamirambo.

According to Tour du Rwanda organizers, Ethiopia national team pulled out of the race at last minute on Saturday, leaving the eight-stage race with sixteen teams – and 78 riders – into contention.

“Ethiopia Cycling Federation has confirmed that their national team won’t make it to #TDRwanda19! We will now have a strong field of 16 teams fighting for the yellow jersey,” Tour du Rwanda tweeted via their official handle on Saturday.

“We’ve worked on every detail as best as we can in terms of preparations. All my riders are fit, and mentally and tactically ready for the race,” said American trainer Magnell, before noting that some of the riders are more confident than the others, but everyone is ready.

Team Rwanda lead rider, Valens Ndayisenga, is one of the pre-race favorites – along with compatriots and former winners Jean Bosco Nsengimana (Excel Energy Benediction Club), Joseph Areruya (Delko Marseille) and defending champions Samuel Mugisha who is representing South Africa’s Italy-based side Dimension Data for Qhubeka.

Ndayisenga, 25, holds the record of being the only rider with two Tour du Rwanda titles since the famous race turned international in 2009. He was also the first Rwandan to win it 2014.

On the other hand, Mugisha, has also tipped his Dimension Data side to win the title, and the 21-year-old believes his team has the necessary quality and experience for the challenge.

“We are in great form, and the mood in the team is fantastic, our target is the yellow jersey. We have all the quality and experience necessary to win the race,” a visibly relaxed Mugisha told Sunday Sport on Friday.

The 2019 edition of Tour du Rwanda promises to be the most competitive yet, with the presence of one UCI World Tour Team and four Pro Continental teams, and will also feature the longest stage ever in the history of the race, the grueling 213.1km Stage 3 from Huye to Rubavu.

Stage 5 from Karongi to Musanze (138.7km) will feature three Category 1 climbs and will be decisive for the general classification, while the race will once again wrap up in Kigali next Sunday with a 63.7km circuit in the capital that features seven categorized climbs.

The race will have a total elevation of 19,336 meters, including 4,591m and 3,445m at the 3rd and 5th stages, respectively.