SIX riders that will represent Rwanda at the forthcoming 12th edition of Gabon's La Tropicale Amissa Bongo have been unveiled. Team Rwanda Cycling announced the cyclists on Thursday ahead of the event that will be staged from February 27 to March 5.
Rwanda is among the 10 African countries that will grace the 2.1 category UCI Africa Tour road race that will also have four UCI Continental Teams from Europe and one from Asia.
Unlike previous years when Team Rwanda had been fielding most of its experienced riders, this year will see four young riders make their debut at the grueling road race, which is also the first race on the African Tour calendar. The team will be led by Bonaventure Uwizeyimana, winner of the competition's stage five in 2014 (Rwanda's current best record at the race), with Jeremie Karegeya the second most experienced member.
Riders who will be making their La Tropicale Amissa Bongo debut include; Rene Ukiniwabo, Alex Nizeyimana, Samuel Hakiruwizeye and Eric Nduwayo.
According to the Rwanda Cycling Federation technical director Jonathan 'Jock' Boyer, this year, the aim is to give more young riders a platform for exposure at the international stage.
"This is an important year for Team Rwanda Cycling. Bonaventure brings the experience and, as the only Rwandan to ever win a stage at Amissa Bongo, he is charged with guiding the next generation of (Rwandan) young riders," said Boyer.
Boyer, who once represented America in Tour de France, noted, "With the exception of Jeremie (Karegeya), the other four riders will be experiencing Amissa Bongo for the first time. We're taking them there to gain experience as a way of preparing them for the future."
Last year, Team Rwanda entered six riders that included; Janvier Hadi (now retired), Emile Bintunimana, Patrick Byukusenge and Jean-Claude Uwizeye.
Others were Joseph Areruya and Camera Hakuzimana, while 2015 Tour du Rwanda winner Jean-Bosco Nsengimana featured for his former Germany-based UCI Team Bike Aid.
Team Rwanda finished in eighth place out of the 14 teams while Byukusenge finished second in the mountains classification with Uwizeye finishing third in the junior category.
Stage 1: Moanda-Akiéni (Feb. 27)
Stage 2: Leconi-Franceville (Feb. 28)
Stage 3: Mounana-Koulamoutou (Mar, 1)
Stage 4: Fougamou-Lambaréné (Mar, 2)
Stage 5: Lambaréné-Kango (Mar, 3)
Stage 6: Akanda (Cap Estérias)-Libreville (Mar, 4)
Stage 7: Owendo-Libreville (Mar, 5)