We can retain our title, says coach Sterling Magnell

Team Rwanda head coach Sterling Magnell chats with Jean Claude Uwizeye and Valens Ndayisenga (Sam Ngendahimana)

Tour du Rwanda 2019 (2.1)

– total distance 959.1km

Stages

Stage One

February 24:Kigali – Kigali (112.5km)

Stage Two

February 25:  Kigali – Huye (120.3 km)

Stage Three

February 26:Huye – Rubavu

(213.1 Km)

Stage Four

February 27:Rubavu – Karongi

(103 km)

Stage Five

February 28:Karongi – Musanze (138.7 km)

Stage Six

March 1:Musanze – Nyamata (120.5km)

Stage Seven

March 2: Nyamata – Kigali (84.2 km)

Stage Eight

March 3:Kigali – Kigali (66.8 km)

THE Rwanda National Cycling team (Team Rwanda) coach Sterling Magnell believes that his side will defend their title of Tour du Rwanda title during this year’s edition which will run from February 24 through March 3.

The first 2.1 edition of Africa’s biggest cycling race will start in Kigali and the winner will be decided on the ultimate stage with the famous ‘Wall of Kigali’, which the peloton will climb four times before heading to the finish at Nyamirambo stadium.

According to the coach, riders are geared up ahead of this year’s Tour du Rwanda which will cover total distance 959.1km.

Riders who have been in intensive training include defending champion Samuel Mugisha, 2017 winner Joseph Areruya, and two time winners Valens Ndayisenga, Jean Claude Uwizeye, Didier Munyaneza, Patrick Byukusenge, Bonaventure Uwizeyimana and Jean Bosco Nsengimana.

Tour du Rwanda riders in a peloton Team Rwanda head coach Sterling Magnel  has vowed that they will successfully defend the title. Sam Ngendahimana.

However, according to Magnell, riders like Moise Mugisha, Eric Manizabayo, Samuel Hakiruwizeye and Jean Damascene Rubwera will join the team after Tour de l’Espoir in Cameroon.

Coach Sterling Magnell says that preparations are going very very well where they are in the final week of challenging training to finish the schedule that they started at the beginning of December.

“I’m very happy with the progress. We will preview stage 7 through Kigali on Saturday. I am cautiously optimistic that we can defend the title. I say every year we must race with smart tactics.

Every year there are some mistakes and tension within the team,”  the American born noted

Magnell said that this time it is absolutely necessary to race smart with the level of the race being 2.1 and bigger stronger teams and any small mistake will knock them off the podium.

“Everyone is very excited and committed. Despite the fact that Minispoc still has not paid the bonus from the last tour du Rwanda.”

The 2.1 level is another level but Magnell promised Rwandans to see his riders challenging for medals. “Expect to see truer bike racing. Expect to see a much higher level of competition. It will be 200% more difficult to win this time”

However, the trainer noted that the surprise rider so far is Moise Mugisha.

Magnell talked about the chances to retain the title. “The climbs in Rwanda are not long or steep enough to allow the true climbers to come out on top. The most difficult element will be creating opportunities for ourselves. We will need more power to do it. But the training we have done this time I believe will allow us to do that.”

He noted that with the removal of the TT it is very much up to chance in some sense. The stage 7 circuit through Kigali will be a pivotal moment.

“We are satisfied with the way our riders have been fairing at the international level. We are very happy with their standing on the continent, and hopefully we will do much better in the Tour du Rwanda,” he stressed.

The American trainer added that he believes in the team because the riders prepared very well.

“It’s going to be a tough competition but I have urged the guys (riders) to be positive, after all, they have nothing to lose. All the teams are strong and it will be a real test for us,” he added.

The long week course race has the total of 959.1km with the race beginning on Sunday, February 24 through Sunday February 3.

Stage 1 - Sunday February 24: Kigali > Rwamagana> Kigali - 112.5km

The 2019 Tour du Rwanda sets off in Kigali near Amahoro National Stadium and ends with a short lap in Kicukiro with a big loop through Rwamagana in the middle. Expect a sprinter to be the first man in yellow.

Stage 2 - Monday February 25: Kigali > Huye - 120.3km

Stage 2 is a regular stage with three major tests on the road from Kigali to Huye via Muhanga.

Stage 3 – Tuesday February 26: Huye > Rubavu – 213.1km

Stage 3 is the longest stage ever in the history of Tour du Rwanda and the 213.1 kilometers that separate the start in Huye and the finish in Rubavu are anything but flat.

Stage 4 – Wednesday February 27: Rubavu > Karongi – 103km

Stage four promises to be a tough day out as the race makes its way to Karongi across Rutsiro District.The route is all but flat and they ride from one hill to the next before a long descent drops down to the shores of Lake Kivu while the while the run-in to the line is a short false flat.

Stage 5– Thursday February 28: Karongi > Musanze – 138.7km

Another climbing day tough climbs early in the stage could pose problems and split the race up early.

Stage 6– Friday February 1: Musanze > Nyamata – 120.5km

Long and testing route that passes through Kigali before heading to Nyamata.

Stage 7– Saturday February 2: Nyamata > Kigali – 84.2km

Not for the faint-hearted and starting in Nyamata, the penultimate stage includes a 60-km circuit around Kigali and shot but sharp climbs which will hurt tired legs of the riders in the last 40 kilometers.

Stage 8– Sunday February 3: Kigali > Kigali – 66.8km

Last but definitely not the least for those that have made it, the last stage is another testing route with seven categorized climbs including cobbled Wall of Kigali witch will be scaled three times before a final run uphill to the line.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw