A Rwandan national team will take the start line of the Tour de l'Avenir for the first time in 2018. The national selection won the team classification of the Tour de l'Espoir nations cup in Cameron to earn a place at the 'mini Tour de France' 17-26 August. The national Rwanda team also won the Tour de l'Espoir overall with Joseph Areruya and a stage via Samuel Mugisha.
Tour de l'Avenir race director Philippe Colliou has confirmed the selection of Rwanda with Cyclingnews.
The invitation comes off the back of a successful six-months for the landlocked nation which hosted the African national championships for just the second time in its history last week. From 2019, the national Tour of Rwanda will also be elevated to 2.1 status and the national federation is seriously pursuing a bid for the World Championships in the mid-2020s.
"There's a big difference between the level here [Cameron] and the level of the Tour de l'Avenir, but it was important to allow the best African nations to encounter something new and cross a new threshold," said Laurent Bezault, UCI Consultant and African Adviser for the UCI Africa Tour.
"It's the route African cycling must take in order to compete on an international scale. It will undoubtedly be difficult, but it lets them see how far they still have to go. Like I always say, if it works elsewhere, there's no reason why it can't work here."
Rwanda's team for the Tour de l'Avenir will likely be lead by 22-year-old Areruya. A stage winner at the Baby Giro last year with his Dimension Data for Qhubeka Continental team, Areruya won two stages on his way to overall Tour of Rwanda success last year. He started 2018 in similar winning fashion, taking a stage win on his way to overall La Tropicale Amissa Bongo in January. The first time a Rwandan cyclist had won a 2.1 stage race.
Areruya's purple patch of form continued in West Africa with overall Tour de l'Espoir victory. Trade and national teammate Samuel Mugisha leading home Areruya in a one a one-two finish on stage 3 into Yaoundé to set up the overall win. Muguisha would finish the race in 11th place overall while Jean Paul Rene Ukiniwabo was fourth and Didier Munyaneza was ninth. Samuel Hakiruwizeye and Jean Damascene Ruberwa also raced the Tour de l'Espoir and could be considered for Rwanda's team at the Tour de l'Avenir.
At the African Championships, Areruya continued his run of form, helping Rwanda to silver in the team time trial then placing third in the individual time trial. He rounded off the championships with sixth place in the road race, won by former teammate Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier, as the best placed U23 rider.
"It's really great, I can't wait to race over there! I hope I'll be in good form there too. In any case, I'll do everything I can to win the race ahead of the best young riders in the world," Areruya said of racing the Tour de l'Avenir.
In recent editions of the premier U23 race, African riders have lined out at the Tour de l'Avenir via the UCI's Centre Mondial du Cyclisme team, and a Morocco national team. The 2017 Tour de l'Avenir was won by Colombian Egan Bernal.