All systems go for the 10th Tour du Rwanda

Phil Walter/Getty Images

On Sunday, over 80 cyclists from across the world will embark on a 104-kilometre race around the Rwamagana district in Rwanda's Eastern province.

The race will be the first stage of the 10th edition of the Tour du Rwanda, an annual cycling event hosted by the east African nation that spans 948.6 kilometres and eight stages.

The 2018 Tour du Rwanda will consist of 16 club and national teams, mostly from Africa. Club teams from the USA, Germany, Switzerland and France will also participate.

Rwanda's Cycling Federation (FERWACY) president Aimable Bayingana expects a gripping race, telling KweséESPN: "We are expecting a great Tour, a competitive one, because all 16 teams that will participate are strong and of good quality. The stages are also hard."

Stage 2 is from the capital Kigali to Huye located in the south of the country, a distance of 120.3 kilometres that will feature three categorised climbs at the beginning, while Stage 3, from Huye to Musanze, is the longest, covering 195.3 kilometres and four brutal climbs.

Stage 4, from the Musanze district located in Rwanda's northern province to Karongi down south, is 135.8 kilometres long.

The riders will have to contend with three difficult climbs in the 95.1-kilometre Stage 5, while Stage 6 -- from Rubavu to Kinigi - also has three climbs in its 108.5-kilometre distance, where cyclists will ride on the foot of the breathtaking Volcanoes National Park, home to the famous mountain gorillas.

Stage 7 is a 107.4-kilometre trip from Musanze to Kigali. The penultimate stage will see riders twice tackle the now famous 500-metre 'Wall of Kigali', a 12 percent steep climb of cobblestones which attracts hundreds of fans.

Rwanda will be represented by three teams: Team Rwanda, Club Benediction, the nation's biggest cycling club, and Les Amis Sportifs. Other African countries that will be represented include Kenya, Algeria, Angola, South Africa, Cameroon and Ethiopia.

All eyes will be on 2014 winner Jean Bosco Nsengimana, who will be looking to win the tour for the second time. Joseph Areruya, winner of last year's edition, will not be defending his title since his French UCI team Delko Marseille Provence KTM will not be taking part.

This will be last event under the 2.2 race classification. The 2019 event will be upgraded to the 2.1 category, becoming only the second such event alongside Gabon's La Tropicale Amissa Bongo under the 2.1 category of the of the International Cycling Union (UCI) Africa Tour.

"The last 2.2 edition is just a celebration for us for the incredible things we've achieved over the last 10 years. Tour du Rwanda under the 2.1 classification will herald a new chapter for us," Bayingana added.

Since 1988, Tour du Rwanda was only a regional event that attracted riders from neighbouring countries like Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and others. Two decades later, it was incorporated into the UCI under the 2.2 classification.

Popularly known as the 'Land of a Thousand Hills', the East African country's undulating topography offers some of the best locations for cycling, and it's the same reason why it continues to produce talented cyclists year-in, year out.