Areruya all but secures overall victory with second place
Metkel Eyob and Joseph Areruya Arrive at the line together
The 'Wall of Kigali' lived up to its pre-race promise as the decisive climb of the Tour of Rwanda on stage 6, with Dimension Data for Qhubeka fending off all attacks on Joseph Areruya's yellow jersey and celebrating the stage win with Metkel Eyob
The duo, who sit first and second on GC, repeated the one-two finish of stage 4 into Nyamate with Eyob claiming a race record fifth stage win. With over one minute separating the top-20 on the stage, there was also a reshuffle of the GC, with no change to the podium places. Kenyan Suleiman Kangangi (Bike Aid) remains third at 1:32, although anything but a Dimension Data for Qhubeka one-two finish overall tomorrow afternoon in Kigali is unlikely.
"I am so happy. I worked hard for this Tour before I came and my team is very strong. I win two stages in this race and in total, five," Eyob said, now 35 seconds in arrears to his teammate. "It is my favourite race. I don't have words. I am so happy."
For the fourth time at the 2017 edition of the race, Dimension Data for Qhubeka controlled the finale and then launched a rider to the win, a stage 6 victory further underlining its strength and depth at the race and commitment to winning the yellow jersey.
"Our plan was to control the race and we did. Then we came to the pavé and I go full gas," Eyob said of the spectator-packed climb. "Joseph and the other guys go with us and last two kilometres it was attack, attack. We raced smart in the last kilometre and I beat him in the sprint.
"It was very special, he is a strong teammate and I tell him to follow me because he has the yellow jersey and I have to protect him, we do our plan and we win."
For Areruya, the stage was again a special occasion with the record stage win for his teammate having started the stage in his hometown of Kayonza.
"I am really happy with Metkel winning the stage and I finished second behind him. I hope tomorrow we finish the stage with the yellow jersey," said Arreyua who also finished second to Eyob on stage 4, having won stages 1 and 3.
"Today was amazing because it started in my hometown and that is why we had to work hard to show my neighbours how strong I am and I showed them."
A challenging 12-kilometre circuit in Kigali to be covered ten times is all that stands between Areruya and, at 21, becoming the second youngest overall winner at the race. A win for Areruya would also be the fourth straight win for a Rwandan in the race with his team looking likely to deliver the goods Sunday afternoon.
How it unfolded
The penultimate stage of the Tour of Rwanda took its easternmost starting point Saturday morning with the peloton assembling in Kayonza. With the Rwandan tifosi again in full support, the peloton received a raucous applause as they rolled out for what would be a short, fast and intense stage.
Once the flag was waved to start racing, the stage followed the same roads into Kigali that race took yesterday for the finish in Rwamagana. The first attack of the day would come via Kelvin Kiplagat of Kenyan Riders with Eritrea and Lowestrates.ca sending riders up the road to cover the move. Taking advantage of the flat roads to power away from the peloton, the attacks continued with the national Rwandan team next to roll the dice.
Small groups were forming and then disbanding as the first KOM of the stage provided riders with the opportunity to snare points and move into the classification lead.
Jean Bosco Nsengimana took the required points to briefly take the KOM jersey lead. A break then formed with representation from the Algerian team, Bike Aid and Eritrea before being pulled back by the bunch. A two-man group of Jean Damascene Ruberwa (Benediction) and Natnael Mebrahtom (Eritrea) were given clearance and broke free to lead the race. At the halfway mark of the stage, the duo had two minutes over the bunch with a chase group caught in the middle.
Approaching Kigali and the final climbs of the stage, the gap continued to fall as the crowd numbers rose. Adne Van Engel (Bike Aid) managed to ride across to the two leaders with Ruberwa dropping back into the bunch. With Dimension Data for Qhubeka pulling hard in the bunch, Mebrahtom secured the KOM points needed to move into the classification lead before the catch was made.
On approach to the decisive 'Wall of Kigali', a five hundred metre pave climb, the GC battle came alive. At the head of the race, a select group of GC men battled it out on the climb with Dimension Data for Qhubeka causing the damage. With the peloton splintered into pieces, Eyob and Arreyua had time to celebrate their second one-two finish of the race and all but secure a second overall victory for the team.