Henok Mulueberhane is the new overall leader of the ongoing Tour du Rwanda 2023 after beating William Junior Lecerf of Soudal Quick-Step to the finish line in Musanze to win stage 3.
He covered the 199.5km distance from Huye, in Southern Province, to Musanze, in Northern Province, in five hours, 13 minutes and 37 seconds.
The Eritrean cyclist, who is riding for Italian side Green Project-Bardiani, unseats Briton Ethan Vernon who claimed the opening two stages.
"It is very gratifying for us as a team to win the stage and at the same time take the yellow jersey,”the 23-year-old said after riding his way to the top of the general classification.
The rider is now the race's new leader, having used 11 hours 20 minutes and 59 seconds from 448 kilometers covered in the past three stages.
"We still have a long way to go. There are more stages ahead, so we must fight to remain with the yellow jersey and consistency on the podium if we are to go all the way to the ultimate in yellow. Indeed, it is going to be a huge challenge.” he added.
Mulueberhane is the fourth Eritrean to win the stage which finishes at Musanze District and, particularly, he won the longest stage ever in the history of Tour du Rwanda.
On top of claiming the stage winner’s jersey and the coveted yellow for the overall leader, he was also recognised as the best African rider of the day.
Eric Muhoza, who rides for German side Bike Aid, was the best Rwandan on Tuesday, crossing the finish-line in 14th place, in a group of riders who finished 11 seconds behind stage winner Mulueberhane while Team Rwanda’s Samuel Niyonkuru emerged 28th trailing one minute and 15 seconds off the top.
Nsengimana’s lack of backup
Despite a dominant breakaway lead early in the stage from Huye, Jean Bosco Nsengimana couldn’t beat the pressure of the peloton in the last 3km when he was caught by the bunch.
After 10km, Nsengimana launched an attack peloton, opening a one-minute lead and after 90km, his lead was up to 12 minutes. The rider was a threat to his opponents throughout the stage, just like he did during Sunday’s opening stage, but his men were far from ready to fight for him.
Nsengimana seemed to be up for something during Tuesday’s stage as he continued to attack. His lead, however, started to narrow from the 137th kilometer as he struggled to cope with the pressure from a group of riders who were chasing him looking to cut off his 1’30” advantage.
His breakaway saw him scoop the second points (category 1, 2 up to 3) of the day as well as the leading intermediate sprint after 1.
The race won’t take a break on Wednesday as riders will depart Musanze heading to Karongi before competing from Rusinzi to Rubavu the following day.