Astana will be first WordTour team in Tour du Rwanda

The Tour du Rwanda will jump to UCI 2.1 status in 2019 after 10 years as a 2.2 event, race organisers said today, also revealing that Astana will be the first WorldTour team to compete in the race when it rolls out of Kigali on February 24 for eights days of racing.

Other teams racing next year in Rwanda include Pro Continental teams Delko-Marseille, Direct Energie and Novo Nordisk. Six Continental teams will join the fray, while national teams will come from Eritrea, Algeria, Kenya, Cameroon and the French U23 team. 

"Sixteen teams have been selected for the moment, with a balanced representation from the major cycling nations of the African continent but also worldwide with American and Japanese teams," race organisers said.

Two more teams are expected to be announced on November 30, completing the 18-team field for 2019.

Eritrean rider Merhawi Kudus, who first competed in the race in 2012 and took his first UCI victory there, is expected to lead the Astana roster. Kudus signed with Astana for next season after five years with the Dimension Data and MTN-Qhubeka teams. He started racing with French Pro Continental team Bretagne-Séché Environnement in 2013.

Rwanda champion and 2017 Tour du Rwanda winner Joseph Areruya signed with Delko Marseille Provence KTM for next season after two years with Dimension Data's Continental development team and will be on hand to show off his new jersey. Rwandan Samuel Mugisha, riding for Dimension Data for Qhubeka, took the overall win last year.

The 2019 route will once again feature the mountainous roads in the 'Country of Thousand Hills,' with a concentration of climbs coming during the last weekend in the streets of the capital, including three passages of the Wall of Kigali. The earlier stages will also provide plenty of challenge, however, as the race features 19,336 meters of climbing over eight days, including 4,591 and 3,445 during stages 3 and 5. This 11th edition will also see the longest stage in the history of the event during the third day between Huye and Rubavu, with a record distance of 213.1km. 

2019 Tour du Rwanda teams:

WorldTour – Astana Pro Team
Pro Continental – Direct Energie, Delko-Marseille, Team Novo Nordisk
Continental – Dimension Data for Qhubeka, Benediction Cycling Team, Nice Ethiopia Team, Pro Touch Team, BAI Sicasal Petro de Luanda, Interpro Stradalli Cycling
National Teams – Rwanda, France U23, Eritrea, Algeria, Kenya, Cameroon

2019 Tour de Rwanda stages:

Stage 1 – Sunday February 24 : Kigali-Kigali (112.5 km)
Stage 2 – Monday Februart 25 : Kigali-Huye (120.3 km)
Stage 3 – Tuesday February 26 : Huye – Rubavu (213.1 km)
Stage 4 – Wednesday February 27 : Rubavu – Karongi (103 km)
Stage 5 – Thursday February 28 : Karongi – Musanze (138.7 km)
Stage 6 - Friday March 1 : Musanze – Nyamata (120.5 km)
Stage 7 - Saturday March 2 : Nyamata – Kigali (84.2 km)
Stage 8 - Monday March 3 : Kigali – Kigali (66.8 km)


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