We will need to race smart at La Tropicale title defence – Magnell

L-R: Team Rwanda riders Joseph Areruya,Yves Nkurunziza,Samuel Mugisha, Jean Claude Uwizeye and Didier Munyaneza will represent Rwanda during La Tropicale Amissa Bongo. Sam Ngendahimana.

2019 stages

Stage one

Jan 21: Bongoville – Moanda (100km)

Stage two

Jan 22: Franceville – Okondja (170km)

Stage three

Jan 23: Leconi – Franceville (100km)

Stage four

Jan 24: Mitzic – Oyem (120km)

Stage five

Jan 25: Bitam - Mongomo (G.E) (120km)

Stage six

Jan 26: Bitam – Oyem (110km)

Stage seven

Jan 27: Nkok – Libreville (140km)

WITH three weeks left for this year’s La Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon, the national Team head coach Sterling Magnell has cautioned that Team Rwanda will only need smart racing if they are to retain the prestigious title.

The 2019 14th edition of the 2.1 Africa UCI tour is slated to tee off from January, 21-27 and will for the first time reach in two other countries namely; Cameroun and Equatorial Guinea.

Fifteen teams including 10 national teams and five professional clubs from Europe will compete for this year’s title vying to dethrone Team Rwanda that claimed it last year for the first time ever courtesy of Joseph Areruya.

Team Rwanda has been in a rigorous training camp at Africa Rising Cycling Center (ARCC) for the past two weeks under guidance of Magnell and assistant coach Felix Sempoma getting the roster in shape for the prestigious and gruesome race.

Magnell noted; “It’s fifty-fifty, we will need to race smart and have some luck. Joseph (Areruya) is well known and heavily marked now but any time we race with big teams, we have the advantage of passing under the radar a little bit,” he further explained

“The peloton doesn’t see us as much of a threat so we can surprise them and the same will be true of Tour du Rwanda this year come February”.

The 22-year old Areruya is among the six strong and experienced roster that was announced to compete at the one-week long tour.

The country’s most successful rider by far will be vying to become the first African rider to win the gruesome tour twice and the second rider to win it more than once following the footsteps of former French professional rider, Anthony Charteau, who has the race’s record of most wins having won it three consecutive times from 2010 to 2012.

The France’s Delko–Marseille Provence KTM Areruya will head to Gabon along with Tour du Rwanda reigning champion and Dimension Data rider Samuel Mugisha, Tour du Cameroun reigning champion Bonaventure Uwizeyimana and former national champion Didier Munyaneza.

Others include professional rider Jean Claude Uwizeye and fast rising prodigy Yves Nkurunziza, who will be making his debut.

Sempoma who guided them to last year’s heroics and will be assisted by Patrick Kayinamura as the soigneur and Theoneste Karasira as the mechanic.

The seven-stage race will cover a total of 860 kilometers, this time visiting Equatorial Guinea via Cameroon.

The ten national teams include Gabon, Rwanda, Morocco, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mauritius, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Cameroun.

The professional teams include; Direct Energie, Vital Concept-B&B Hotels and Arkea-Samsic all from France, Androni Giocatolli from Italy and Pro Touch from South Africa.

At its 13th edition, Rwanda was represented by six riders, led by the then Tour du Rwanda champion Areruya who went on to defy odds and lift the title in Gabonese capital, Libreville, in the presence of President Ali Bongo Ondimba on January 21.

Despite losing the experienced duo of Ndayisenga and Uwizeyimana on Stage 5 after suffering accidents, Sempoma’s men held off first runner-up Holler Nikodemus and his Bike Aid teammates as well as second runner-up Gaudin Damien and his Direct Energie teammates to clinch the highly coveted award.