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As one of Africa’s most important races, and the mix of high-altitude terrain and enthusiastic fans make it a season highlight.
Israel Start-Up Nation, back to the race for the fourth time and its first since joining the WorldTour, also joins top European teams Total-Direct Energie, B&B Hotels and Androni-Sidermec, with a mix of African and international squads filling out the peloton for eight-day race.
“We cannot lose focus for a single second in Rwanda,” said sport director Cherie Pridham. “Big groups can go, and take huge advantages. We will work hard for GC, but also look for opportunities and try for a stage win.”
Canada’s James Piccoli will be in the hunt for the GC, with Israeli riders Guy Sagiv, Omer Lahav, and Edo Goldstein in the mix for stages.
Other top names include Alexandre Geniez (Total-Direct Energie), Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels), and Jhonatan Restrepo (Androni-Sidermec). Spanish veteran Óscar Sevilla (Team Medellin), and Americans Alex Hoehn, Jason Saltzman and Spencer Petrov, who line up for Wildlife Generation, will also line-up at the eight-day race.
The race loops around the mountainous country, with the famous “Wall of Kigali” slated for stage 7.
“The cobbles, the fans, and the sound, they all make this climb special. For me, this wall is the icon for Rwandan cycling,” said Lahav. “It is not only the Wall of Kigali that can hurt though, there is barely any meter flat in the Tour du Rwanda.
“The elevation and the altitude make this race super difficult. The local riders, who are perfectly adapted to the circumstances, always race super aggressively, supported by their fellow countrymen.”
African riders typically win and race with pride on home roads.
In fact, the only non-African rider to win at Rwanda was Kiel Reijnen, who won in 2011, with Joey Rosskopf second when they raced for Team Type 1-Sanofi.