Eritrean cyclist has won Stage 5 of Tour du Rwanda placing Rwandan cycling fans in an unpredictable situation about Stage Six.
Eyob Metkel peddled hard closing the gap to 42 seconds after winning stage five of Africa’s toughest cycling event from Muhanga to Musanze a distance of 125.8Km.
The Dimension Data Qhubeka rider started the day in sixth position 1 minute and 28 seconds off the lead of his teammate Valens Ndayisenga but his time of 3hours 15 minutes and 57 seconds plus a boring performance from the leader saw him leapfrog Joseph Areruya into second place cutting the lead to 46 seconds behind the Ndayisenga.
Areruya finished the day in seventeenth position, 1 second ahead of Ndayisenga in eighteenth place.
After his stage two victory in Karongi the 2014 champion’s plan has been to keep pace with the younger Joseph Areruya whose results in stages four and one looked as the biggest threat to Ndayisenga but the Rwamagana born rider might have to change his approach and focus on his teammate.
If consistency is to be used to describe any rider in this year’s event then the Eritrean deserves the tag as he has kept around the leading groups since stage one after a difficult prologue stage.
But it’s still an advantage for Ndayisenga as the feel of a familiar home terrain and presumed support from his country mates in other riders might prove a determining factor if he is to once again be crowned as the Tour of Rwanda champion.
“Expect Valens to be more aggressive tomorrow. A stage victory would surely put him on the edge of another Tour victory but this is exciting for the fans,” said Isaac Rogan a cycling expert that has previously covered Tour de France.
With both cyclists well recognized as all-rounders, some experts believe it’s still Valens’ advantage as he might be a fresher among the two cyclists going into Stage Six tomorrow.
“When you look at him peddle you feel like he is not yet riding at his optimum. It is like he is saving up enough gas in the tank which will see him fresher of all the riders,” said Alpino Pieters a cycling strategist.
“I believe he learnt a lot from last year’s unfortunate incident where he had a burn-out. He comes in with much more experience which will enable him handle the race better,” said Issa Ntibitura from the Rwanda Cycling Federation (FERWACY).
When asked if the Rwandan teams would change their approach to help Valens keep his grip on the yellow jersey, Team Rwanda coach Felix Sempoma noted that his cyclists will stick to their team tactic and won’t be doing favours as this is a competition.
“At this stage I want what’s best for our riders and if it is to win the next stages, we will go out to better our times and hopefully win the next stages,” Team Rwanda coach said.
With tomorrow’s stage six expected to involve the famous cobble stone, the team instructions from Dimension Data Qhubeka might go a long way in picking the winner for this year’s race, “from the beginning the coaches have left us to cycle to our strengths and I think they will continue to do the same. It is good to have two riders vying for the champion. That shows strength and depth in the team,” said a modest Ndayisenga.
With attention set to focus on the two leading riders, youngster Samuel Mugisha (Les Amis Sportif) has all but wrapped up the King of the Mountains rider and will have to just finish the race to be crowned the best climber of this year’s Tour.
The 18 year old stands on the brink of history as he is set to become the youngest rider to ever win the mountain classification title with unassailable 73 points lead over French cyclist Sebastian Fournet Fayad enough to win him the championship going into the final two days.
The final two stages have a total number of 13 climbs with nine of them category four climbs in Kigali.
1 EYOB Metkel Dimension Data 3:15:57
2 BYUKUSENGE Patrick Club Benediction de Rubavu
3 HAYLAY Kibrom (Ethiopia)
4 HATEGEKA Gasore (Team Rwanda)
5 UWIZEYIMANA Bonaventure Dimension Data for Qhubeka 0:46
6 OKUBAMARIAM Tesfom (Eritrea)
7 BENEKE Calvin (South Africa)
8 GOLDSTEIN Omer (Cycling Academy Team)
9 GEBREIGZABHIER Amanuel Dimension Data for Qhubeka
10 BURU TemesgenEthiopia
11 BUSSARD Dimitri Suisse Meubles Descartes
12 GEBRESILASSIE Estifanos Kebede Ethiopia
14 RUGG Timothy Lowestrates.ca
15 NSENGIMANA Jean Bosco Stradalli – Bike Aid
16 KANGANGI Suleiman (Kenyan Riders Downunder)
17 ARERUYA Joseph Club Les Amis Sportifs de Rwamagana
18 NDAYISENGA Valens (Dimension Data for Qhubeka )
19 BIRUGoton Mebrahtu (Ethiopia)
20 RUHUMURIZA Abraham (Rwanda )