The highly anticipated 14th edition of the annual continental road race championship kicks-off today in Kigali.
The race, which will run until February 18, will cover Nyamata, Bugesera District and Kigali City.
Rwanda is hosting the multi-category cycling event for the second time in eight years, but has only won one medal in the history of the competition – a bronze in 2017, in the Team Time Trial (TTT).
With a home advantage at play, Team Rwanda will be seeking to stun seven-time reigning champions Eritrea and other giants for gold in U23 & Elite men’s TTT.
In elite men’s TTT, arguably the main and much awaited event of the day, Team Rwanda will field a quartet of star riders namely; Adrien Niyonshuti, two-time Tour du Rwanda champion Valens Ndayisenga, the 2015 Tour du Rwanda winner Jean Bosco Nsengimana and sensational Joseph Areruya whose name has become a cycling anthem. Teams will be departing every after 3 minutes.
In elite women’s TTT fray, Rwanda’s quartet of Béathe Ingabire, Magnifique Manizabayo, Jacqueline Tuyishime and star rider Jeanne d’Arc Girubuntu look to vie for gold against usual suspects Eritrea, South Africa and Ethiopia among others.
In junior men’s TTT, Bernabé Gahemba, Yves Nkurunziza, Jean Eric Habimana and Jean Claude Nzafashwanayo will represent the country while Samantha Mushimiyimana, Violette Irakoze Neza, Valentine Nzayisenga and Jeanette Manishimwe will be eyeing a podium finish in junior women’s TTT category.
For a historic first time, Rwanda will be represented in every race category of the championship- U23 & elite men’s TTT, Individual Time Trial (ITTT) and the main road race which will be 168km long in 14 laps across Kigali on February 18.
Rwanda will also have her riders in U23 & elite women’s TTT, ITT and road race (84km) as well as junior men and women’s TTT, ITT and road race. The road race for junior women totals 60 kilometres while their male counterparts will race a distance of 72 kilometres.
The five-day event has attracted a total of 167 riders, 122 men and 45 women, representing 22 African countries including the giants of Africa such as Eritrea, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa and Ethiopia who are expected to give the hosts Rwanda a hard time in the chase for medals.
Other countries in Kigali for the competitions are; Nigeria, Swaziland, Seychelles, Namibia, Djibouti, Mauritius, Benin, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Zambia, Sudan, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt and Burundi.
At the 13th edition last year, in Cairo – Egypt, Rwanda finished in the 8th position with only one medal, bronze, in elite men’s TTT category. Powerhouse Eritrea topped the table of medal winners with six medals, three gold, 2 silver and one bronze medal. Algeria finished second with five medals ( 3 gold and 2 silver) while Ethiopia completed top three, also with six medals; 2 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze medal respectively.
With the series of recent stunning performances in international competitions including the 2017 Tour du Rwanda, the 2018 La Tropicale Amissa Bongo and the inaugural Under-23 UCI Tour de l’Espoir held last week in Cameroon, Sterling Magnell’s Team Rwanda is well positioned to make history as Africa’s new shining stars.
Team Time Trial (TTT)
Junior women’s TTT (18.6km) – 9:00 am – 9:45am
Junior men’s TTT (18.6km) – 9:20am – 10:00am
U23 & Elite women’s TTT (40km) 9:50am – 11:00am
U23 & Elite men’s TTT (40km) – 10:20am – 12:00pm