The Rwandan Epic is a new face on the global mountain bike stage race circuit. Having first run earlier this year after some delays to get rolling, the second edition just finished on the November dates where the event has now found its home.
The Belgian team of Jens Schuermans and Frans Claes, who won 4 out of 5 stages, and the Kenyan Amani team of Nancy Debe and Kenneth Karaya with a clean sweep, left no doubt about who were the strongest of this edition of the Rwandan stage race.
The fifth and final stage took place at high altitude, up to nearly 2900 metres above sea level, and finished at the famous Lake Kivu, near the border of Democratic Republic of Congo. This was the only stage the Belgian team did not manage to win, and the Rwandan-Lesotho team up of Jean Eric Habimana and Tumelo Makae proved that they felt at home in this terrain.
On the preceeding stages it was the Ugandan-Kenyan team of Schleck and Kariuki who where the main challengers of the two national champions. Jens Schuermans attests “more than for the competition I was here to discover the country, and it really delivered, the people and the nature are spectacular, and this might have been the best multi day course I have ever done so far!”
With no all-women teams competing in this edition, the remaining battle in the mixed teams was interrupted when the main competition of team Amani, an unusual partnership between Rwandan MTB legend Rafiki and young upcoming (19 years old) talent Jazilla ‘Queen’ Mwamikazi crashed on stage two.
Rwandan Epic is still a small event, with just 23 teams starting and not more than 12 classifying in the overall (plus an addition of 28 solo riders for the Rwandan Open for the final stage), but organisers are expecting a rise in popularity for 2023. “Moving the 2021 edition to March ‘22 due to COVID restrictions and then organising the next edition in the same year was challenging” says Simon De Schutter, director of RaR Events, “but we are confident to have made the right choice, the group was small, but the quality was high, with some of the best riders globally and of the continent, and an amazing group of amateur riders as well. Next year we aim for 60 teams, and we have no ambition to grow to very large number yet rather focus on quality even in this adventurous context.”
The 2023 edition will take place from October 31st to November 4th and early bird tickets are set to go on sale already at the end of November 2022. Head to www.rwandanepic.com for more information.
Final results at the 2022 Rwandan Epic
- Frans Claes – Jens Schuermans 11:16:44
- John Kariuki – Jordan Schleck +01:32:04
- Jean Eric Habimana – Tumelo Makae +01:38:18
- Matt Brokenshire – Mark Spratt +02:46:16
- Nacy Debe – Kenneth Karaya (1. Mix) +04:01:41
- Shane Burke – Troy Barrie +04:03:47
- David Caroll – Alex Sio +05:46:35
- Yves Nkurinziza – Joel Kyaviro +05:49:36
- Robin Malenfer – Benjamin Mullet +06:04:24
- Milreille van Dongen – Arnav Kapur (2.Mix) +06:36:35
- Theogene Nzamue – Kevin Nshutigaruma +07:08:39
- Elke Deceuninck – Daan Revis +08:11:44
Photos: Wim Vanderwegen