Rwamagana – Rwamagana 104km
The 10th edition of the country’s most prestigious sporting event, Tour du Rwanda, kicks-off this morning at Dereva Hotel in Rwamagana district, Eastern Province – at 11am.
A total of 80 riders representing 16 teams are lined up to explore the glamorous landscape of the land of a thousand hills in the next seven days.
For a historic first time since 2009 when the tour got incorporated into UCI Africa Tour, Kigali will not host the opening stage, which normally used to be the Individual Time Trial (Prologue race).
Instead, Tour du Rwanda’s final edition as 2.2 race will start in Rwamagana, the home to most of the country’s elite riders.
Today’s opening stage covers a distance of 104 kilometres comprised of 16 laps – of 6.5 kilometers each - around Rwamagana town. The circuit stage winner will begin tomorrow’s Kigali – Huye Stage 2 (120.3km) in yellow jersey.
It is the third longest stage this year.
According to Rwanda Cycling Federation, the idea to start the race in Rwamagana is to acknowledge the significant contribution of the area in the country’s cycling development as well as celebrating the 10 years of Tour du Rwanda as a UCI Africa race.
At the same time, Ferwacy will be bidding farewell to Tour du Rwanda as a 2.2 category race before it is upgraded to 2.1 next year.
Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Rwandan riders who are seeking for a fifth title in a row since the historic 2014 triumph by Valens Ndaysienga that have seen local riders own their race.
A total of 18 Rwandan riders will race in this year’s edition and they are; Team Rwanda, Club Benediction and Les Amis Sportifs.
The duo of Ndayisenga and Jean Claude Uwizeye who will feature for France’s Pays Olonne Cycliste Côte de Lumière (POCCL) while cycling icon Adrien Niyonshuti returns to Tour du Rwanda for the first time since 2014, riding with South Africa’s Sampada cycling team.
“The title has to stay here – whatever it takes. This year in particular it is inevitable to win it because of a number of reasons, including the fact that this is the last 2.2 Tour du Rwanda, we can’t afford to lose it. I don’t care who wins it as long as he is Rwandan,” revealed two-time winner Ndayisenga in an interview with Sunday Sport on Saturday.
Ndayisenga’s opinion concurs with Niyonshuti’s who also revealed that, “I am excited to be back to race in the Tour du Rwanda, I am here to help my team (Sampada) but I will as well be rooting for home riders to win it. This is our race, we have won it for the past four years and we can’t lose it this year, the next seven days will make Rwandans more proud of the sport of cycling.”
Reigning champion Joseph Areruya will not be defending his title as his team Delko Marseille is not part of the 16-team peloton of the race.
Among others, the 2015 winner Jean Bosco Nsengimana, Ndaysienga, reigning national champion Didier Munyaneza and Italy-based Samuel Mugisha top the list of pre-race favorites to claim the highly coveted yellow jersey on August 12.