Uwizeyimana continues Rwandan party at Tour of Rwanda

Former national champion celebrates first win at national tour

A Tour of Rwanda debutant in 2012, Bonaventure Uwizeyimana has since lined out in the following four editions of the race. The 24-year-old won a stage at the 2014 La Tropicale Amissa Bongo and the Rwandan national title last year but found success hard to come by at his national tour.

On a day for the opportunists into Rwamagana, the hometown of Rwanda's first WorldTour rider Adrien Niyonshuti, Club Benedict covered its bases for victory by placing a rider in the breakaway and keeping Uwizeyimana in reserve for a potential sprint finish.

A powerful rouleur, Uwizeyimana attacked the bunch inside the final kilometre and held on for the stage 5 win, four seconds ahead of the reduced peloton, showing no signs of inhibition as the crowds enthusiastically cheered on the Shashwara native for the fourth Rwandan stage win at the 2017 edition of the race.

"It was so amazing for me. I was planning to do it but I was thinking maybe it works, maybe it doesn't work," Uwizeyimana told Cyclingnews, having concluded his podium and television duties. "I am so happy because this is my fifth Tour of Rwanda and it is my first win at the Tour of Rwanda.

"It feels better than my dream of winning."

A member of the MTN-Qhubeka WCC team in 2013, Uwizeyimana moved to France the following year to ride with the Direct Energie feeder team Vendée U from July, his stage win at the Amissa Bongo catching the eye of Direct Energie team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau. Teammates from the 2014 season included Thomas Boudat and Lilian Calmejane who have both progressed into the professional ranks with Direct Energie.

The 2014 season also saw Uwizeyimana race the Commonwealth Games for the first time and make his debut in the World Championships, racing the U23 road race. Racing with the national team in 2015, Uwizeyimana's development continued with a strong African UCI racing programme and a return to the U23 Worlds road race. He then joined the Dimension Data for Qhubeka team for 2016 with his national title and a maiden elite Worlds appearances highlights of the season.

This season, Uwizeyimana has returned to racing with the national team and also enjoyed a stint of racing with the Canadian Lowestrates.ca team in Canada. The Canadian races, Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay and Tour de Beauce with Lowestrates.ca were complemented by the Cascade Cycling Classic and the inaugural Colorado Classic with the Rwandan national team for a block of North American racing.

"I went to Canada for racing but I was not in good condition at that time," he said of the experience. "When I came back to Rwanda, I trained hard for Tour of Rwanda."

For Uwizeyimana, the experience was important for his development, explaining that, "In Africa, we don't have enough races but we need to learn how to go to Europe and ride there."

Rwandan riders are not alone in the sacrifices required to leave home for Europe to make it as a professional cyclist. For Uwizeyimana, whose relationship with cycling began as a 15-year-old hauling goods and cargo on a bicycle to support his family, it is a sacrifice he is willing to make.

"It is difficult to be far from the family but to be a professional you have to leave the family," explained Uwizeyimana, who as a child was a refugee in the Congo and also lost his mother.

Overcoming the obstacles of his youth through cycling, 'Bona' has become one the more recognisable African riders in the peloton with his Rwanda stage win cementing his status as a national sporting hero.

Having now won a national championship and a stage of the national tour, which he backs in the move to 2.1 status from 2019, Uwizeyimana is looking ahead to his "big goal" of next year's African Continental champions in Kigali and claiming a maiden medal for Rwanda at the event, writing another chapter in the stirring 21st-century history of Rwandan cycling.

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