Date: Tuesday, 21 February 2023
Behind us is a stage that proves how far the Tour du Rwanda has come. After almost 200km of competition, Henok Mulubrhan reached the win and it was the African champion from Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè who became the new leader of the general classification.
Why are we talking about going a certain way? For years, the Tour du Rwanda struggled with a problem that most of the stages were rigidly related to the capital, Kigali, and the length of the sections rather oscillated around 100-120km. Today, however, the competitors only transited through the largest city in Rwanda, and as much as 199.5 km was waiting for them. Someone wise will of course notice that 200 km have already been exceeded twice, but then there was only one such stage, and this year we still have 195.5 km on the 5th day of the competition.
But enough of the brainstorming, let's focus on the stage itself, because this one was really interesting from the profile. After the first, relatively simple part, there were as many as 6 climbs waiting for the cyclists, including, above all, three Kanyinya steps (5.5km; 7.3%) climbed one after the other, not marked by a 4.8km bonus with an average gradient of 4.3% and Umuremge (5.5km; 4.6%). After a while of descents, Kivuruga (7.1 km; 6.5%) became fierce on the route, and finally a slightly simpler climb leading to the finish line in Musanze (2.8 km; 6%). In total, there was over 3,300 meters of elevation gain to overcome today.
On the first day two cyclists escaped, yesterday one, so ... today the same three got together and again decided to visit Rwanda ahead of the peloton. These daredevils were Jean Bosco Nsengimana (Rwanda), James Fouché (Bolton Equities Black Spoke) and Marc Oliver Pritzen (EF Education-NIPPO Development Team). Gentlemen quickly began to build a really big advantage.photo: Ferwacy (Rwandan Cycling Association)
Already after 20km of driving the clock showed 7:20, after the next flat fragments it reached even 11 minutes. You could say that it got drowsy, and in the photos from the route you could catch the competitors focused not only on the ride, but also on the games of children standing by the route.
James Fouché, wearing a blue leotard of the leader of this classification, was the first to report to the flying stage. A moment later, at the foot of the first climb near Kamonyi (2.2 km; 7%), Jean Bosco Nsengimana, who obviously wanted to make his presence felt on the route to the delight of the local crowd, moved forward. The 30-year-old, winner of the 2015 Tour du Rwanda, and this year's runner-up in the mountain classification, gained 45 seconds over the chasing two and began to win on subsequent climbs.
With 80 km to go, the lone Rwandan had 30 seconds over the New Zealander and the South African cyclist, and the peloton led by Israel-Premier Tech was losing about 11 minutes. However, the fourth climb took its toll on the host and he let Bolton and EF catch up.
The next kilometers passed quite quickly and with 30km to go, at the foot of Kivuruga (7.1km; 6.5%), the breakaway still had over 6 minutes advantage. This gave high hopes for the leader's jersey for Jean Bosco Nsengimana, who was just over a minute behind Ethan Vernon in the overall standings.photo: Tour du Rwanda
The peloton woke up strongly in the finale, but unfortunately the high pace combined with torrential rains also brought many crashes. After two falls, one of the biggest favorites Carl Fredrik Hagen (Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team) withdrew from the race, Tartu2024 Cycling Team also lost its leader - Siim Kiskonen left the race.photo: Sammy Imanishimwe / Kigali Today
But let's get back to the competition - here at the top of Kivurugi it was already known that Rwanda would not see its leader, at least not in the form of Jean Bosco Nsengimana. He scored just before the top, but the top two 23km before the finish had only 1:40 advantage. Meanwhile, the peloton, chasing in the rain, was heavily depleted and could not stand the pace, among others. the current leader of the general classification, i.e. Ethan Vernon (Soudal – Quick-Step Devo Team) or Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech).
Meanwhile, a 5-man group consisting of Mattéo Vercher and Thomas Bonnet (TotalEnergies), Henok Mulubrhan (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè), Callum Ormiston (South Africa) and Eric Muhoza (Bike Aid) moved forward. They were soon joined by William Junior Lecerf (Soudal - Quick-Step Devo Team) and Manuele Tarozzi (Green Project), and the top two had less than a minute to reach the final climb to the finish line in Musanze (2.8km; 6%) .
3km before the end the peloton cleared the chase and James Fouché went solo in the lead. The New Zealander had only 35 seconds of advantage at that time and it seemed that the fate of the stage could play out. The Bolton Equities Black Spoke rider finally capitulated in the last kilometer when Henok Mulubrhan and William Junior Lecerf passed him, the former winning stage 3 and becoming the new leader of the general classification. The podium of the day was completed by Anatoliy Budyak (Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team).
When Fouche was left alone in command, Lecerf, Tarozzi, Grellier, Mulueberhane, Iturria, Calzoni, Reinerink, Yemane and Oram followed in pursuit . But the fast wheels of the group left no room...
Unfortunately, a series of crashes still to be recorded today which forced Lucas Dauge (Novo Nordisk), Slim Kiskonen (Tartu2024) and Imad Sekkak (Morocco) to retire.