Pierre Rolland and B&B Hotels borrow bikes from Total Direct Energie after only two survive trip, as magic of Tour du Rwanda beckons
The Frenchman says he's already been 'seduced' by Rwanda, as team awaits arrival of bikes ahead of Sunday's start
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After being moved from its usual February slot due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 13th edition of the Tour du Rwanda will finally get underway this Sunday May 2, the peloton set to battle it out over eight stages around the rolling hills of the country's capital Kigali.
A number of top European teams will line up alongside African national teams as well as a smattering of Continental teams in what is a truly global bike race.
Israel Start-Up Nation are the sole WorldTour outfit present, while Total Direct Energie, Androni Giocattoli and Pierre Rolland's B&B Hotels represent the ProTeams.
Colombia's Team Medellin and Germany's Bike Aid will also be on the start line, the former featuring 44-year-old Óscar Sevilla who finished second in the 2001 Vuelta a España, while Ethiopia, Eritrea, Algeria and Rwanda have all sent national delegations to compete across the next week of racing.
Pierre Rolland has said he's already been "seduced" by Rwanda and its people, posting a video of him riding along and being chased by excited schoolchildren.
>>> ‘If the WorldTour stopped tomorrow, the social impact is zero’: Bike Aid are one team trying to change that
The Frenchman's team has had to call in a favour from fellow ProTeam squad Total Direct Energie after only two of B&B Hotels' bikes arrived on time, borrowing equipment until their own hopefully turns up before the start.
"Seduced by Rwanda, its people, its fervour. Unfortunately, only two of our bikes have arrived, the others are still travelling," Rolland said.
"Thanks to Total Direct Energie for the solidarity and loan of equipment so that we can train while waiting."
While Israel Start-Up Nation's James Piccoli familiarised himself with the Kigali road he was joined by a local, as his team-mates also enjoyed themselves, popping wheelies up cobbled climbs (opens in new tab) on a recon ride.
Israel Start-Up Nation owner Sylvan Adams has also made the trip to Rwanda to launch a cycling project supporting women's cycling.
"We hope this team will be a model for other communities in Africa," Adams said, before adding he'd like to see a rider from the African nation one day join his WorldTour outfit. "There are great talents in this country. To me, the greatest thing will be to see a rider from Rwanda racing for us."
The eight-stage race will unfortunately not have the usual ebullient roadside fans due to strict coronavirus restrictions banning them from the roadside.
Stages one and two should be resolved in sprint finishes, while the third day could favour a breakaway, and stage four could also be won in an uphill sprint finish if the race remains together over the preceding climbs.
The lumpy parcours of stages four and five will suit the climbers, while stage six features an uphill finale where the last few metres hit a gradient of 20 per cent.
Stage seven is a time trial before the final queen stage eight sees the peloton tackle the Mur de Kigali three times.
Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, the even better news is that Eurosport and GCN will be showing daily highlights of the race, with live images not being made available to broadcasters.
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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