The opening stage of the Tour of Rwanda got underway with a 3.5 kilometre prologue. The race started and finished at the Kigali sports stadium and was supported by thousands of people on the roadside. The crowds got what they came for when local rider Janvier Hadi (Rwanda Karisimbi) blitzed through the course with the fastest time of the day to win the stage.
Louis Meintjes was the team’s fastest man, finishing third behind Hadi. Meintjes trailed Hadi’s winning time of 4 minutes 5 seconds by a further three seconds. Johann van Zyl was fourth on the day with Jay Thomson and Songezo Jim eighth and tenth respectively.
“It was a hard course,” Thomson said after the stage. “We can be happy with four of us finishing in the top ten. That’s our first goal achieved for the week, as we didn’t lose much time. It’s going to be a long week and we’re happy that no one crashed and we got through the opening day ok.”
Thomson went on to speak about the event as a whole. “We’re not going to come here and not take it seriously. It’s a beautiful place and the amount of people supporting the race is incredible so we’ll respect it. We’ll give it everything we have the next few days and make sure we enjoy it as well as spend some time with MTN Rwanda who get to see us race at home.”
The race marked the return of Adrien Niyonshuti. The Rwandan lined up in his home country for his first race of the season. He finished the course 19 seconds off the winning time, rolling across the line in 35th place. “It’s good to be racing with my teammates again,” Niyonshuti said. “Today was just a short stage but it feels good. I am happy to show my team Rwanda and how beautiful it is. I think they will see all the hills but we will have a good time here.”
Stage one takes place from Kigali to Kirehe 129,9 km. Rwanda is known as the country of 1000 hills and won’t disappoint with the amount of climbing the peloton can expect in the next few days.
For full results, please go here.