SIX riders that comprise the U23 national cycling team (Team Rwanda U23) have intensified their preparations ahead of the 2019 Tour de l’Espoir.
The second edition of the annual race is scheduled for February 4-9 in Cameroon.
The youngsters have been training for the U23 Nations Cup at the Musanze-based Africa Rising Cycling Center (ARCC) since last month, under the tutelage of Nathan Byukusenge.
Rwanda will be looking to defend the title they won last year when Joseph Areruya was crowned the champion of the race’s inaugural edition while Team Rwanda was the champion team.
Speaking to Times Sport on Tuesday, tactician Byukusenge who will guide Team Rwanda in Cameroon, admitted that “the competition will be a bit stiffer this year” but the boys are fit and determined for the challenge.
“It is going to be a tough competition, and we will be everyone’s target since we are the defending champions. However, preparations are going on well and my riders are ready to challenge for the title again. We are optimistic,” said the former Rwanda international.
The five-stage race has seen a four-team increase, to 19, this year, up from 15 teams of the debut edition last year. Among the new teams are; Japan, Portugal, Monaco, Argentina and Ecuador.
“We have started training early and everyone on the team understands what we are expected of. Particularly, we are focused on the tactical and mental aspects of the race,” added the 38-year old.
The six-man Team Rwanda roster includes; Yves Nkurunziza, Samuel Hakiruwizeye, Eric Manizabayo, Jean Damascene Ruberwa, Jean Claude Nzafashwanayo and Moise Mugisha.
Obed Ruvogera will be the team physiotherapist while Eric Maniriho is the mechanic.
Full 19-team peloton:
Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Mauritius, Nigeria, Tunisia, Rwanda, Argentina, Portugal, Ecuador, Monaco, Japan, South Africa and the hosts Cameroon.