The 11th Tour du Rwanda came to a close on Sunday after traversing Rwanda’s villages, towns and hills in the seven days the competition lasted.
Eritrea’s Merhawi Kudus emerged the winner.
Tour du Rwanda 2019 also came with many FIRSTS. It was elevated to Category 2.1 from 2.2 by the International Cyclists Union (UCI), the governing body in charge of such competitions.
This categorization puts Tour du Rwanda only second to Gabon’s La Tropicale Amissa Bongo race on the African continent; but Tour du Rwanda will maintain the “most grueling race” tag in Africa.
Another new development was the participation of riders from Pro-Continental Teams and the world’s biggest Tour du France. There were also teams from Israel.
Cash prizes also increased and the level of engagement from the private sector was unprecedented with teams getting big sponsors locally and internationally.
The race was also aired LIVE on state television and several other local broadcasters.
It is clear that the level of interest and active participation generated by Tour du both locally and internationally keeps growing. It is also a positive development too that tens of thousands line towns, highways and hilltops to view the riders.
There has been no opinion survey but going by the nature of excitement that has been around the country and scenes reported by the media, Tour du Rwanda is fast become one of the most popular sports in the country.
The explanation for this is because over the years, Rwandans have dominated Tour du Rwanda previously. They have also gone on to win prizes at African races, including Gabon’s La Tropicale.
This time round however, Rwandan riders did not perform as they did in the previous competitions. None won any of the 8 Stages and none came among the top five in the overall rankings.
Even if they did take other prizes such as the ‘King of Mountains’, they struggled throughout the week. One of the top Team Rwanda riders even dropped out.
We hope, when another race returns later this year, Team Rwanda will have corrected the weaknesses and devised winning tactics.
Overall however, it is clear cycling as a sport is growing as interest and support for it multiplies. We therefore congratulate the leadership of the cycling federation in the country and hope that the momentum will be maintained.