Stage 2: Kigali – Huye (120.5km)
Stage 1: Rwamagana – Rwamagana (97.5km)
1. Azzedine Lagab (GSP Algerie) 02h12’21”
2. David Riba Lozano (Team Novo Nordisk) 02h12’21”
3. James Fourie (South Africa) 02h12’31”
4. Jonas Doring (Team Descartes Romandie) 02h12’31”
5. Valens Ndayisenga (POC Cote de Lumière) 02h12’33”
Algerian veteran rider Azzedine Lagab yet again proved his cycling prowess on Sunday as he clinched the first stage of this year’s Tour du Rwanda in Rwamagana District, Eastern Province.
The 31-year old sprinter, who is making his fourth appearance in the annual UCI Africa Tour race since his debut in 2013, completed the 15 laps – of the 6.5km each – in Rwamagana town, in 2 hours, 12 minutes and 21 seconds.
Lagab’s win put into the shadow home riders’ dominance in the early laps of the 97.5km circuit race, who had held control of the peloton until the final four laps.
Four laps into the race, two-time Tour du Rwanda winner Valens Ndayisenga, who was racing infront of his home town fans, launched the first attack, opening up a gap of about six seconds to the chasing group that was led by two-time stage winner Janvier Hadi while the peloton was 10 seconds further behind.
After the fifth lap, Ndayisenga was joined by Les Amis Sportifs youngster Rene Jean Paul Ukiniwabo and the duo rode together to stretch the lead to 37 seconds over the peloton.
After eight laps, the two Rwamagana born riders had stretched their lead to one minute and four seconds ahead of the peloton.
However, with five laps to go, the peloton upped their pace and cut the gap to only twenty seconds behind Ndayisenga and Ukiniwabo. By the time the riders headed into the twelfth lap, Ndayisenga and Ukiniwabo had been caught by the peloton and another group led by Team Rwanda’s U-23 rider Samuel Hakiruwizeye took the lead, 10 seconds ahead of the peloton.
During the final (fifteenth) lap, Ndayisenga again tried to launch another attack and seemed poised for the stage win halfway the lap before Algerian Lagab proved his sprinting talent to claim the 97.5-kilometre ride on a sunny afternoon in Rwamagana.
The Groupement Sportif des Petroliers Algerie rider crossed the line first, in a sprint photo finish, beating USA Team Novo Nordisk’s David Lozano, who finished second with the same time.
South African James Fouire posted 2 hours, 12 minutes and 31 seconds to complete top three.
“It actually was never my plan to win this stage but because the race had a lot of breakaways, I ended up deciding to attack in the final lap and fortunately it worked,” said Lagab.
“Our objective is to win the top prize. Now that I am in the yellow jersey, we will fight to protect it in the following stages over the next seven days,” he added.
This was the third stage victory for the 31-year old at Tour du Rwanda following his two-stage wins during his 2013 debut.
The four-time Algeria’s ITT champion also raced the 2016 and 2017 Tour du Rwanda editions.
Lagab also scooped the best African rider award while his team GSP Algerie was awarded the best overall team of the day.
Meanwhile, Ndayisenga (2:12:33), who is featuring for France’s POCCL, was the best Rwandan rider after finishing in fifth position while Les Amis Sportifs debutant Moise Mugisha used 2 hours, 12 minutes and 39 seconds to finish seventh in his home town.
Ndayisenga, 24, also took the best climber, best combatant and best Rwandan rider awards while Jonas Doring, from Switzerland’s Team Descartes Romandie, was the stage’s best young rider.
Les Amis Sportifs rider Ukiniwabo, 20, scooped the best sprinter award.
Tour du Rwanda action continues today with Stage 2 as the 79 riders of the eight-stage race tussle it out on Kigali – Huye road, a total distance of 120.5 kilometers.