While the European professional season may have ended a few weeks ago, on Sunday one of the most important races on the African cycling calendar gets underway in the form of the 8th Tour du Rwanda. Our African Team has a long history with the UCI 2.2 event and we are delighted to be able to send our Continental Team to the event this year. Starting with a prologue on Sunday, the race then takes in 7 undulating road stages before finishing in Kigali next Sunday, 20th November.
In 2009, the inaugural edition of the Tour du Rwanda took place and we had Adrien Niyonshuti, who was part road rider and part mountain biker for our African Team back then, compete in the event. Niyonshuti went on to finish 3rd overall that year and he would be the first of a number of our riders to grace the Tour du Rwanda podium in the years that followed.
„The Tour du Rwanda is a really important race for Team Dimension Data because it is one of the biggest races in Africa. It is part of the UCI African Tour calendar and it has become a great race. You can ask nearly all of my African World Tour teammates, I think we have all done this race more than once each and they will tell you it is a great race. This race really helps to develop African riders because the organisation and competition is always very good“, Niyonshuti says. „For a race in Africa the Tour du Rwanda also gets some good coverage and this is because the federation and the government support the race so well. They really work hard to make it a good race. It is an excelent advert for African cycling and also for world cycling actually, you will see how many fans come to watch.“
„The Tour du Rwanda is one of the most beautiful races I have done in my career with amazing green landscapes, wonderful winding mountain roads and an amazing amount of spectators“, fellow Dimension Data for Qhubeka rider Jacques Janse van Rensburg states and adds: „That being said, it’s also one of the hardest races on the African continent! The level is really good there with some European teams also competing with the best of Africa! Definitely a great race for the development of young riders, preparing them for European racing. Myself, and all other African riders on our World Tour team did the Tour du Rwanda before and it was a great and important race for us!“
Jacques Janse van Rensburg was one of the 5 of African riders who formed part of the first ever African registered team that took part in the Tour de France last year, which only underlines the competion in Rwanda. Especially, the 2010 edition of the race was very good to three of our current World Tour riders, Daniel Teklehaimanot won the overall, Natnael Berhane was 2nd and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg was 3rd. Racing as MTN-Qhubeka in 2011, Dylan Girdlestone, brother of our continental team rider Keagan Girdlestone placed 3rd overall and in our African Team’s colours, Louis Meintjes finished 2nd overall during the 2013 edition.
As the Tour du Rwanda grew in popularity, and year in year out the crowds flocked to the roadside by their thousands, the Tour du Rwanda became the event where the cream of the African cycling talent crop always rose to the top. Merhawi Kudus (6th in 2012) Valens Ndayisenga (2014 winner) and Metkel Eyob (4th in 2015) are 3 more riders who enjoyed success in Rwanda before joining our African Team.
Now, taking place over 8 days throughout the Rwandan countryside, the Tour du Rwanda is the perfect platform for young African riders to showcase their talent. This year, our Dimension Data for Qhubeka Continental team will send Rwandan National Road Race champion Bonaventure Uwizeyimana,Valens Ndayisenga, Amanuel Gebreigzabhier, Metkel Eyob and Junrey Navarro to line up against 14 other 5-rider teams. While our continental team is focused on riding away with the overall honors at this years Tour du Rwanda, we look forward to some exciting racing against the best emerging talent in African cycling.
„Even though I can’t race this year I am happy the Dimension Data for Qhubeka Continental team is racing“, Niyonshuti continues. „I have been helping them prepare for this race for the last few weeks and they are looking really good.“
The Tour du Rwanda has established itself as one of Africa’s major stage races and has helped a lot of African riders to develop theirselves. It is a great pleasure for our African team to come back to this race.
„We have always liked to come and to play a relevant role at the Tour of Rwanda. We will once again try to leave our mark here as, in terms of race quality, it’s a very important stepping stone for African riders to grow. We have seen this with quite a few of our own riders who are now enjoying some good success in renowned European races. It would be great, if the Tour of Rwanda could become even bigger in the future, as this would help to further grow the level of racing here and allow for more big teams to take part“, concludes Dimension Data for Qhubeka team principal Douglas Ryder.