Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka Continental started the biggest race of their season on 9 June, the 7 stage u23 Giro d’Italia. Today saw the riders take on stage 5a, an 87km road stage with a 14km individual time trial following in the afternoon.
Up until today the u23 Giro d’Italia had already been a massive success for our young African Team. El Mehdi Chokri sprinted to 5th place during yesterday’s 4th stage and the team also held the lead in the King of the Mountains green jersey competition from stage 1, first with Areruya and now currently with Nicholas Dlamini.
Granted that our young African Team’s goals before the race was to win a leader’s jersey and also have a rider finish in the top 10 of a stage, the team was already satisfied with how the week was panning out. While the team had clearly been racing well against 150 of the best u23 riders in the world, nobody was quite expecting what happened during this morning’s 5th stage.
After some great work by the entire team to set up Dlamini for the two GPM sprints during the stage, he was able to extend his lead in the King of the Mountains competition. The race then came back together for the technical finish, run over two city circuit laps. Numerous attacks went off the front in the final 15km but the European teams were closing down all the moves, making it extremely difficult for anyone to get away.
After carefully monitoring all these late attacks and not wasting any energy, Areruya saw his opportunity with 5km to go. The 21-year-old Rwandan put in a strong counter-attack and rode away from peloton, quickly opening up a 25″ lead on the main group. The final 3km was all uphill though, with a maximum gradient of 18% before reaching the cobblestone finishing straight. While all previous attacks had failed, Areruya’s strength and tactical timing saw him ride to a fantastic victory.
This win is the first ever victory by a Rwandan rider on the European racing circuit. It is also the first win for our All-African Continental Team outside the continent of Africa. As the feeder team to our World Tour squad, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, the result also bodes well for the future of African cycling on the global cycling stage.
Andrew Smith – Continental Team Sport Director
We are extremely happy with today’s result, it is really a special day. To be honest our plan for today was to set up Nicholas for the GPM points which the team did fantastically well. He took max points and Kent Main was even 2nd to make sure nobody else could pull any points back on Nic. So, the team had executed the plan perfectly and then for the final we thought the bigger teams would keep it all together and so we were preparing Chokri and Nic for the sprint. The team has been racing so well this week though and buoyed by this confidence, they have been racing from the front and when you are at the front opportunities will arise. Joseph took his opportunity and he showed how strong he was today because no team could bring him back. It was a fantastic win and a special day for our team.
Who is Joseph Areruya?
Hailing from Rwanda, Joseph Areruya is a 21-year-old cyclist on our Dimension Data for Qhubeka Continental Team. Areruya joined our African Team set up based in Lucca, Italy at the beginning of 2017. Areruya is a product of the Adrien Niyonshuti cycling academy, started by our current World Tour athlete Adrien Niyonshuti.
Niyonshuti knew Areruya’s family from a young age as Joseph’s father was a cyclist and assisted Adrien in the early years of his cycling career. When Joseph was only 11 year’s old, Adrien went back to the Areruya family and asked if he could take young Areruya under his wing, put him on a bicycle and give him the opportunity to change his life through the sport of cycling. From that moment, Niyonshuti has been mentoring Areruya and guiding him down the path of a professional cycling career.
In 2013 as a 17-year-old, Areruya finished 9th at the Rwandan national road championships, his first notable result. 2 years later Areruya placed 2nd at the national champs and then went on to finish 2nd overall at the Tour du Rwanda, a remarkable performance for a 19-year-old racing in the elite category. A string of consistent results throughout the African Continental circuit last year, including winning the Circuit International Constantine in Algeria and a stage win at the Tour du Rwanda, led our Continental Team to sign Areruya for his first full season in Europe for 2017.