Merhawi Kudus (World Centre Cycling-Africa) finished second on stage five of the Tour of Rwanda to move himself into the race lead, ahead of South Africa’s Darren Lill on Thursday.
The 18-year-old Eritrean, who won stage one, got orders at the start of the day from South African team director Jean-Pierre van Zyl to follow the main riders on General Classification on the first three climbs and wait to see what condition the peloton was in for the last two Category One climbs.
On the final climb of the stage (a 126.5km ride from Muhanga to Musanze), the peloton was reduced to 14 riders. The Eritrean national team was the first to show its aggression with an attack from Habte Solomon. Soon he had 55 seconds on the peloton and the Ethiopian Alem Abebe attacked. Kudus used this opportunity to follow the move and put pressure on the South African team who held the race lead.
ÔÇ£The plan was to go a little later but this was the moment and he read it to perfection,ÔÇØ said van Zyl. ÔÇ£Within two kilometres he caught the leading Eritrean and together they rode to the top with Merhawi taking the last king of the mountain prime with a 40 second time difference between the two lead riders and the yellow jersey group.ÔÇØ
With 20km to go the gap was at 50 seconds to the two out in front and got reduced even further to 30 seconds later on. However, even with the strong South African national team doing most of the work to bring the two back they were unsuccessful. Solomon outsprinted Kudus for stage honours. The UCI World Centre Cycling Africa team who will be the official feeder team to Team MTN-Qhubeka next year now has three stages left to defend the yellow jersey.
ÔÇ£We need to thank UCI President Pat McQuiad for his contribution to African cycling,ÔÇØ said van Zyl. ÔÇ£He started the WCC ÔÇô Africa team in 2005 and secured the funding for the program. If it were not for him with his vision and his constant interest on the progress of the African riders, we would not have an 18-year-old Merhawi performing like this and beating some the best professionals on the continent.ÔÇØ