South African cyclists star in Tour of Rwanda

26 November 2013

Dylan Girdlestone, riding for the South African national cycling team, won the Tour of Rwanda on Sunday, finishing just over two minutes ahead of Team MTN-Qhubeka’s Louis Meintjies, with Metkel Eyob of the AS.BE.CO Cycling Team in third.

It was a tough final day of racing for the South African team as they defended the yellow jersey under pressure from Team MTN-Qhubeka, with Louis Meintjies and Johann van Zyl leading the chase for Africa’s first Pro-Continental team.

Team MTN-Qhubeka had led the Tour in the early going, but then lost general classification leader Jay Thomson to an illness which forced him out of the event.

Sunday’s seventh and final stage finished with a five-lap circuit race through the streets of downtown Kigali and Algeria’s Azzedine Lagab took the honours after attacking on the foruth climb to drop a group of three other riders. Initially, his gap was 20 seconds, but Lagab continued to push hard and eventually took the stage win by a minute and 40 seconds.

Progression to the title

Girdlestone, however, had done enough to finish in yellow and claim the title. He had previously finished third in 2011 and second in 2012.

Hendrik Wagener, Cycling South Africa’s Road Commission Director, was pleased with the victory. “The national team rode a calculated race and achieved their goal amidst tough competition. As a federation, we are very proud of the national team’s achievements, especially since they do not always race as a unit throughout the season,” he said in a statement.

“They worked well together and delivered the results. We are also extremely proud of our Pro-Continental team, Team MTN-Qhubeka, who provided a strong race after a long season abroad.”

Local favourite

The Pro-Continental team proved to be very popular with Rwandans because of the presence of local favourite Adrien Niyonshuti in their ranks. Riding his first race of the season, he provided the home fans with something to shout about by finishing fourth on the final stage and ninth overall.

MTN-Qhubeka led the race through Jay Thomson on the first and second stages, and then through Louis Meintjies after three stages, following the withdrawal of Thomson.

Girdlestone in yellow

Girdlestone, who had been 16 seconds off the lead at the start of the fourth stage, took over the leader’s yellow jersey after stage four, which was won Johann van Zyl of MTN-Qhubeka, who recorded his first individual win as a professional. It was MTN- Qhubeka’s 16th victory of the season.

While Girdlestone finished second to Van Zyl on the stage, he managed to gain two minutes and 26 seconds on Meintjies, the previous yellow jersey wearer, which gave him a two minute and 26 seconds lead over Meintjies in the general classification.

The MTN-Qhubeka star, a silver medal winner in the under-23 road race at the UCI World Championships in September, managed to pull back only nine seconds over the remaining stages as Girdlestone fought hard to take the victory.

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION

  1. Dylan Girdlestone (Cycling SA) RSA 20:35:55
  2. Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) RSA +02’01”
  3. Metkel Eyob (AS.BE.CO Cycling Team) Eri +02’20”
  4. John Njoroge (Kenya) Ken +03’39”
  5. Aron Debretsion (AS.BE.CO) Eri +4’20”
  6. Jean-Bosco Nsengiyumva (Rwanda Karisimbi) +4’52”
  7. Getachew Atsbha (Ethiopia) Eth +5’26”
  8. Bereket Yemane (AS.BE.CO) Eri +5’52”
  9. Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Qhubeka) Rwa +6’35”
  10. Azzedihne Lagab (Algeria) Alg +7’05”