Ever since 2010, the Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda, has become the favorite show ground for the relentless Eritrean riders to showcase their talents and capability to the rest of the world.
This year’s edition of the Tour of Rwanda is no different as the Eritreans maintain their dominance after claiming 5 out of the 7 stages wins so far. They still show no sign of slowing down to win the final stage on Sunday (25).
According to the organizers of this event, cyclists are expected to run 876 kilometers in eight stages that ranges between 44.1 and 156.5 Kilometers with lots of climbs and as many downhill sections.
Over 90 cyclists comprised out of 15 teams namely from Algeria, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa and other teams that came from Belgium, Canada, France, and the USA are competing for the honors.
However, for the newest and youngest Eritrean star, Merhawi Kudus, neither the magnitude of the competitors nor the thousands of Rwandan hills deter him from shoting off on the final climb and break down his escape to maintain the precious one-minute gap into Nayagatare and win the first gold of the tour.
“Look at this guy, he’s only 18 years old. I’m quietly confident in him,” team director JP Van Zyl exclaimed to Cycling Weekly.
1. MERHAWI GHEBREMEDHIN Kudus [ERI] 03:45:00
2. DAVEL Shaun [RSA] 00:00:00
3. ABEBE Alem Grmay [ETH] 00:00:00
4. GIRDLESTONE Dylan [RSA] 00:00:02
5. PELLETIER-ROY Rémi [CAN] 00:00:27
6. AMANUEL Meron Mengstab [ERI] 00:00:31
7. SHMIDT Alexey 00:00:31
8. MONCORGE Pierre 00:00:31
9. DESALE Nahom [ERI] 00:00:31
10. DEBRETSION BARANCEAL Aron [ERI] 00:00:31
(Table 1: Stage 1 Result)
The following day, Eritrean Amanuel Meron from the UCI Africa Training Center won the 44.1 kilometer Kigali – Muhanga stage race comfortably followed by his South African teammate Lill Darren. That makes the second victory in two days for the South African team, after Merhawi Kudus won stage 1 the previous day.
Team manager Jean-Pierre Van Zyl was excited by Meron’s outstanding performance and his team’s second stage wins and said, “Meron was in this select group and the tactic for him was to follow any attacks early on. This worked out well, as he is also our sprinter and we knew he was on good form after winning the bunch kick for 6th in stage 1. On the final climb of the day Lill Darren kept attacking but Meron followed him every time … to sprinted clear and took the stage.”
That puts Meron Amanuel 4th place on the general classification, a further 26 second behind race leader Rémi Pelletier-Roy of Canada who won the 3.8 km prologue at the opening day. Merhawi Kudus stands 6th lagging 31 seconds.
1. AMANUEL Meron Mengstab [ERI] 01:16:07
2. LILL Darren [RSA] 00:00:00
3. PELLETIER-ROY Rémi [CAN] 00:00:00
4. KAHSAY AFEWERKI Hadush [ETH] 00:00:00
5. NJOROGE John [KEN] 00:00:00
6. HABTE ABRHA Solomun [ERI] 00:00:00
7. ATSBHA Getachew [ETH] 00:00:18
8. LIPONNE Julien [FRA] 00:00:18
9. DESALE Nahom [ERI] 00:00:38
10. MERHAWI GHEBREMEDHIN Kudus [ERI] 00:00:38
(Table 2: Stage 2 Result)
Stage 3 of the Tour of Rwanda that assigned to cover 74.6 Kilometers from Muhanga to Huye was a challenging race for the raiders. Eritrean Merhawi Kudus claimed Silver by finishing second while his teammate South African Lill Darren won gold. At this stage, the formidable South African Lill Darren becomes not only the stage winner but also the leader of the race in the overall ratings after clocking 06:55:02. Merhawi Kudus gained up to the 4th place after narrowing the gap to 16 seconds.
1. LILL Darren [RSA] 01:49:02
2. MERHAWI GHEBREMEDHIN Kudus [ERI] 00:00:08
3. DAVEL Shaun [RSA] 00:00:10
4. NIYONSHUTI Adrien [RWA] 00:00:10
5. ABEBE Alem Grmay [ETH] 00:00:10
6. GIRDLESTONE Dylan [RSA] 00:00:10
7. DESALE Nahom [ERI] 00:00:24
8. KAHSAY AFEWERKI Hadush [ETH] 00:00:24
9. MAREE David [RSA] 00:00:24
10. HOLT Daniel [USA] 00:00:26
11. SOLOMON Meron [ERI] 00:00:27
(Table 3: Stage 3 Result)
The 150.7 kilometers Huye – Karongi stage 4 competition of the tour was followed and won by Canadian Bruno Langlois while young Eritrean talent Merhawi Kudus finished second to claim another silver medal.
During this fourth stage race, five Eritrean cyclists crossed the finish line consecutively from 4th to 7th place while Meron Solomon concludes 9th. That puts the six Eritrean riders in the top 10 finish. South African Lill Darren still maintains the leader of the race with 11:10:48.
1. LANGLOIS Bruno [CAN] 04:15:06
2. MERHAWI GHEBREMEDHIN Kudus [ERI] 00:00:40
3. MONCORGE Pierre [FRA] 00:00:40
4. AMANUEL Meron Mengstab [ERI] 00:00:40
5. DEBRETSION BARANCEAL Aron [ERI] 00:00:40
6. DESALE Nahom [ERI] 00:00:40
7. HABTE ABRHA Solomun [ERI] 00:00:40
8. GIRDLESTONE Dylan [RSA] 00:00:40
9. SOLOMON Meron [ERI] 00:00:40
10. BEKELE Binyam Fitsum [ETH] 00:00:40
(Table 4: Stage 4 Result)
Stage 5 of Tour Rwanda witnessed something extraordinary. The 126.2 kilometers race from Muhanga – Musanze was entirely dominated by the Eritreans. As a result gold medal goes to Solomon Habte while silver and bronze to his countrymen Merhawi Kudus and Aron Debretsion.
Organizers of the Tour of Rwanda have quickly announced this special phenomenon as new record as no other team or country has ever won the first three ranks successively ever before. Thus the Stage 5 podium has been fully kept for Eritrea.
That quickly changed the equation and young Merhawi Kudus become the leader of the race with 14:32:43.
1. HABTE ABRHA Solomun [ERI] 03:21:39
2. MERHAWI GHEBREMEDHIN Kudus [ERI] 00:00:00
3. DEBRETSION BARANCEAL Aron [ERI] 00:00:41
4. LIPONNE Julien [FRA] 00:00:41
5. NJOROGE John [KEN] 00:00:41
6. ATSBHA Getachew [ETH] 00:00:41
7. ABEBE Alem Grmay [ETH] 00:00:41
8. DAVEL Shaun [RSA] 00:00:41
9. LILL Darren [RSA] 00:00:41
10. AMANUEL Meron Mengstab [ERI] 00:02:37
(Table 5: Stage 5 Result)
In the following Stage 6 race of the Tour that covers 65.1 kilometers from Musanze – Rubavu, again Eritrean Meron Amanuel (22) won gold for the second time to make it a fourth stage win out of the six by the Eritreans.
He won the sprint ahead of his South African, Ethiopian, Kenyan and Eritrean breakaway companions after beating them first in the two category climbs. He is also named the best climber.
His rich experience racing abroad like at the Tour de l’Avenir, the Tropical Amissa Bongo or the Tour of Morocco made him one of the most important Eritrean runners in the years to come.
Young rider Merhawi Kudus retained its first place in the overall standings with 15:55:27.
1. AMANUEL Meron Mengstab [ERI] 01:22:21
2. GIRDLESTONE Dylan [RSA] 00:00:00
3. DEBRETSION BARANCEAL Aron [ERI] 00:00:00
4. ATSBHA Getachew [ETH] 00:00:03
5. MWANGI Samuel [KEN] 00:00:03
6. WERNER Jeffrey [CAN] 00:00:20
7. UWIZEYIMANA Bonaventure […] 00:00:21
8. MAREE David [RSA] 00:00:23
9. YAHMI Abdenour [ALG] 00:00:23
10. GEBRESELASSI Estifanos Kebede [ETH] 00:00:23
(Table 6: Stage 6 Result)
The 156.50 kilometer stage 7 race from Rubavu to Kigali was concluded by the victory of South African Lill Darren. Eritrean Aron Debretsion finished second to claim silver.
It was his second victory in the Tour of Rwanda after his stage 3 win and that comfortably puts him as the race leader in the general standings with a clean 1:39 ahead of the rest of the runners with 20:09:31.
1. DAREN Lill [RSA] 04:13:39
2. DEBRETSION Aron [ERI] 04:13:40
3. NJOROGE MUYA John [KEN] 04:13:42
4. GIRDLESTONE Dylan [RSA] 04:13:45
5. ATSBHA Getachew [ETH] 04:13:45
6. LANGLOIS Bruno [CAN] 04:14:08
7. YAHMI Abdennour [ALG] 04:15:38
8. MERHAWI Kudus [ERI] 04:20:31
9. RUHUMURIZA Abraham [RWA] 04:21:11
10. LIPONNE Julien [FRA] 04:21:17
(Table 7: Stage 7 Result)
The 100.5 kilometer and final stage race will be held on Sunday (25) in Kigali. With South African Lill Darren’s clean swipe at the stage 7 took one of the favorite riders, young Merhawi Kudus, back to the 6th position.
Therefore, Lill Darren will win the Tour of Rwanda 2012 on Sunday as it is impossible for Merhawi Kudus to cover the 6 minute gap between them. Surprisingly, Ethiopian cyclist Atsbha Getachew is 2nd overall by 20:11:10 followed by Girdlestone Dylan of South Africa with 20:11:27 and Kenya’s Njoroge Muya with 20:11:40. Eritrean Aron Debretsion is therefore 5th.