Astana take 15th win of 2019 at Tour du Rwanda

Kazakh squad lead Deceuninck-QuickStep in season victories

Astana took their win tally to 15 after claiming the final stage and scoring the overall victory at the Tour du Rwanda this weekend, putting them two victories ahead of fellow WorldTour team Deceuninck-QuickStep, who took their 13th win of the year at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday.

Last season, Patrick Lefevere's Belgian squad – riding as Quick-Step Floors – were the most successful WorldTour team, winning 73 races in total, versus Astana's still-impressive 30.

However, the team from Kazakhstan have started 2019 with a bang, and, having already reached half of their 2018 total by early March, look set to give Deceuninck-QuickStep a run for their money this season.

But while Deceuninck-QuickStep tend to thrive in the one-day Classics and on stages at Grand Tours, Astana have bigger ambitions, with overall victories at the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España foremost in their minds – and with the riders to do it, too, thanks to the likes of Jakob Fuglsang, Miguel Angel Lopez and Pello Bilbao.

Astana hardly held back in Belgium over the weekend, however, with Alexey Lutsenko making it into the front group at Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and taking fourth place for his efforts.

The next day, at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Magnus Cort and Davide Ballerini were part of the day's main breakaway, from which eventual winner Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep) won the race, with Cort and Ballerini being caught by the bunch in the closing stages of the race.

Astana's Sunday in Rwanda proved more successful, as Eritrean national road race champion Merhawi Kudus took the overall victory and Colombian Rodrigo Contreras won the final stage – the team's third, following two earlier stage wins by Kudus.

"Today's [final] stage was short and hard, but we could control it perfectly, from start to finish," Kudus, who finished second on the stage, said on Astana's website.

"We had a good plan for the stage: Rodrigo attacked on the second lap, while I remained in the group, controlling my main rivals.

"Today I felt quite good, and my plan was just to defend the jersey and not to take any risks," continued Kudus. "In the end, everything worked out as planned: we took a one-two on the stage and I won the yellow jersey," he said.

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