Following the official unveiling of the 11th Tour du Rwanda route on Thursday, Rwanda Cycling Federation (Ferwacy) president Aimable Bayingana has promised that the event will be bigger, more competitive and entertaining than it has ever been.
For the first time, the famous annual race, arguably Rwanda’s biggest sporting event, will attract a UCI World Tour team – Astana Pro Team.
After celebrating its 10th anniversary in August, Tour du Rwanda will turn to an important page of its history next year as the race will be upgraded to a new level in the UCI world hierarchy. Effective 2019, the cycling event will graduate from 2.2 to a UCI 2.1 category race.
It had been a 2.2 race since becoming international in 2009.
“Tour du Rwanda will be tougher (for riders) and more entertaining (for fans) than it has ever been before. With one UCI World Tour team, three UCI Pro Continental teams and the best national teams on the continent, 2019 will be a turning point for the race,” said Bayingana.
He further added that, “We have started preparations earlier than the usual so that every detail can be given due attention.”
This change in status has resulted in new interests from world-class teams who want to discover and experience the race difficulties that everyone talks about, like the famous 12% steep climb over the cobblestone road, also known as the Wall of Kigali.
Managed by former Olympic champion Alexander Vinokurov, Kazakhstan’s Astana Pro Team is set to become the first UCI World Tour team to race Tour du Rwanda.
The team confirmed via their official Twitter handle on Friday.
“In 2019, we’ll be racing at @Tour_du_Rwanda for the first time! #TdRwanda19.”
According to a tentative information, Eritrea international Merhawi Kudus is likely to lead Astana through the race as he will be making his second Tour du Rwanda appearance after his 2012 debut where he finished in sixth position in general classification, and third in youth category.
This will also be a good opportunity for Africa’s top-rated Joseph Areruya to challenge for a second Tour du Rwanda title following the confirmation of his French side Delko-Marseille among the debutants at the 2019 edition.
Celebrated Areruya, 22, won the 9th edition of the race last year.
Another French team, Direct Energie, will also be present with a solid contingent that will take its landmarks in altitude in view of major races of the season like Tour de France.
Sixteen teams have been selected for the moment, with a balanced representation from the major cycling nations of the African continent but also worldwide with American and Japanese teams.
Ferwacy will announce the last two teams to complete an 18-team peloton of the much awaited race by end of the month.
Once again, the route promises to be exceptional with a concentration of difficulties during the last weekend in the capital, including three passages on the Wall of Kigali cobblestone road.
Like every year, the long climbs will be present in all the stages for a total elevation of 19,336 meters including 4,591 and 3,445 during the 3rd and 5th stages.
The 2019 edition also includes the longest stage (213.1km) in the history of Tour du Rwanda as riders will be departing from Huye via Muhanga to Rubavu.