The 2017 Tour du Rwanda was by far the most successful since the annual race became an international competition in 2009, according to some of the riders who competed in the 9th edition that climaxed on Sunday.
This year's race was claimed by Joseph Areruya, riding for South African UCI Continental Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, becoming the third Rwandan to win it after Valens Ndayisenga (2014 and 2016) and Jean Bosco Nsengimana (2015).
Areruya also won two stages during the eight-day, seven-stage race, including the sprint in Musanze (Stage 3: Rubavu - Musanze, 95km) and Stage 1 (Kigali - Huye, 120.3km).
The former Les Amis Sportif de Rwamagana rider benefited from the work and the great strategy of his team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, the top team in Africa , that's also the number 2 team of the World Tour.
The victory is a reward for Areruya's investment in training, which has already allowed him to become the first Rwandan rider to win a UCI race, at the U23 Tour of Italy, in June.
"I am proud to join Valens (Ndayisenga) and Bosco (Nsengimana) as winners of the Tour du Rwanda. Winning in front of my fans gives me even more strength," said Areruya on Sunday.
The last stage was won by Ndayisenga, who equaled the record of the greatest number of stage victories on the Tour of Rwanda (5) held since Saturday by Metkel Eyob. The Eritrean finished second on the podium, like in 2016, followed by Kenyan Suleiman Kangangi (Team Bike Aid of Germany).
"Our target at the start of the Tour was to challenge for the title, nothing changed until the end. Personally, I had to give my best and with help of my teammates, we have been able to achieve our goals," Areruya noted, adding that, "for me, this has been the most successful Tour du Rwanda."
Meanwhile, Simon Pellaud, who rides for American UCI Continental Team Illuminate said: "The Tour du Rwanda was the perfect way to finish my 2017 season! I am happy to be going home for some rest and family time. I have had a good time in Rwanda and hope to come back next year."
The 25-year-old former Swiss U23 national champion, Pellaud won stage 2: Nyanza - Rubavu (180km), the longest stage in Tour du Rwanda, and which has never been won by a Rwandan rider.
Areruya's Dimension Data teammate, Kent Main, noted: "It is officially time for a well-deserved 'off season'.
Two-time Tour du Rwanda winner, Ndayisenga said that "Tour du Rwanda has become probably one of the most supported tours in the world. I am proud to be part of a race in a country which loves cycling so much."
This year's edition attracted 15 teams, including five national teams, five UCI continental teams and five clubs. The national teams were Mauritius, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Algeria and hosts Rwanda.
The UCI continental teams were: Dimension Data for Qhubeka (South-Africa), Tirol Cycling Team (Austria), Team Illuminate (USA), Bike Aid (Germany), and Dukla Banska Bystrica (Slovakia).
Regional or club teams were; Club Benediction de Rubavu (Rwanda), Club Les Amis Sportifs de Rwamagana (Rwanda), Team Lowestrates.com (Canada), Team Haute-Savoie / Auvergne Rhône-Alpes (France) and Team Kenya Riders Safaricom (Kenya).
Out of the 73 riders that had started the race on November 12, only 57 completed the race. The 2017 Tour du Rwanda covered a total distance of 819 kilometres.
Areruya and other riders acknowledged that the results were satisfactory and now all eyes will be on next year's edition, which will be held from August 5-12.
1. Joseph Areruya - Dimension Data for Qhubeka 20:21:29
2. Metkel Eyob - Dimension Data for Qhubeka 0:28
3. Suleiman Kangangi - Bike Aid 1:29
4. Jean Bosco Nsengimana - Team Rwanda 2:10
5. Patrick Byukusenge - Team Rwanda 3:08
6. Valens Ndayisenga - Tirol Cycling Team 3:19
7. Matthieu Jeannes -Team Haute Savoie - Auvergne Rhône Alpes 3:24
8. Didier Munyaneza - Team Rwanda 3:57
9. Tesfom Okubamariam -Eritrea 4:26
10. Simon Pellaud- Team Illuminate 5:45
11. Kent Main -Dimension Data for Qhubeka 6:32