South Africa’s Stefan de Bod has stated his desire to win the ninth Tour du Rwanda which kicks off on Sunday in Kigali City.
The race starts with a prologue on Sunday and takes in seven undulating road stages before finishing in Kigali next Sunday.
Speaking to South African media, De Bod said he goes into this year’s edition hoping to stage triumphant performances on his maiden debut.
The 20-year-old had a torrid time this year as he crashed and fractured his shoulder roughly a week before he was due to start the Baby Giro in June.
He was forced to undergo surgery, taking a three-month break from the sport.
Confident of his form now, the U23 African continental road champion will line up alongside four of his Dimension Data teammates at the seven-day tour.
As defending champions, Dimension Data riders will have distinct targets on their backs, but the Stellenbosch local said he felt good about their chances.
With five riders in with a shot at the overall title, De Bod is realistic about his chances but said he would undoubtedly be chasing victory in an effort to make up for lost time.
“I really want to win, but I’ve prepared at sea level and Rwanda is at 1600m above sea level. I’ll have to race smart and keep that in mind but I believe if I do that then I’m in with a chance.
“I’m really positive, but if I can’t win or get a stage victory then we have four other guys who are really strong,”
Altitude will be just one challenge as De Bod explained the weather was set to be less than favourable for their time in the east African country.
Unfavourable numbers against them would be another challenge as the hosts have entered three teams.
“From what I hear they race like one team to hopefully have a Rwandan winner, so it will be a challenge to race against so many guys who want one of their countrymen to win.”
If his personal bid fails, De Bod will be able to count on fellow South African Kent Main, Rwandans Joseph Areruya and Samuel Mugisha and Eritrean Metkel Ayob to deliver for the team.
Main, who won the Tour of Good Hope in March, has been competing locally for the last couple of months, most recently placing second at the Satellite Classic and third in the inaugural Tshwane Classic.
Areruya made history at the Baby Giro when he pocketed stage five to became the first Rwandan to win on the European racing scene. His victory also marked the team’s first win outside Africa.
“Out of the team, there are five guys who are really strong – strong enough to win the tour. If someone else has a chance, I’ll change my plans to assist him for the yellow jersey,” added De Bod.
Rwanda’s Valens Ndayisenga, currently with Austria’s Tirol Cycling Team, is the reigning champion, while Jean Bosco Nsengimana won the 2015 Tour du Rwanda edition.
This year’s Tour du Rwanda will cover a total distance of 819 kilometers and will reach in all the five provinces of the country.
2017 Tour du Rwanda stages
Nov. 12: Prologue: 3.3km
Nov. 13: Stage 1 Kigali-Huye 120.3km+ 4 categorized climbs
Nov. 14: Stage 2 Nyanza- Rubavu 180km+ 6 categorized climbs
Nov. 15: Stage 3 Rubavu-Musanze 95km+ 1 massive categorized climb
Nov. 16: Stage 4 Musanze-Nyamata 121km+ 4 categorized climbs
Nov. 17: Stage 5 Nyamata-Rwamagana 93.1km+ 3 categorized climbs
Nov. 18: Stage 6 Kayonza-Kigali 86.3km+ 4 categorized climbs (including the infamous “Mur de Kigali”)
Nov. 19: Stage 7 Kigali-Kigali 120km+ 10 categorized climbs (one per lap of the circuit)