After watching teammates Stevie Williams, Tom Van Asbroeck, and Ethan Vernon all win early-season races, Israeli road race champion Itamar Einhorn added his name to that list on Monday when he took a dominant victory in the opening road stage of the Tour du Rwanda.

Einhorn capitalised on another eye-catching team performance, one that helped ensure the stage finished with a sprint finish in Kibeho, to cross the finish line with plenty of time to celebrate his convincing win. The victory, the first by any Israeli rider at the Tour du Rwanda, moved him into the leader’s yellow jersey going into stage 3.

Having not raced since the Gree – Tour of Guangxi in mid-October, Einhorn was relieved to both finally get his season underway in Rwanda and, of course, claim his first win of 2024. 

“After such a long time without racing, I already was sitting on spikes a bit, you could say,” he said. “[I had a] long, long training period – three training camps actually – but in the end if you come and win the first race I think everything is worth it, so I’m really happy.” 

Itamar Einhorn in the Tour du Rwanda yellow jersey
Photo: Einhorn in the race leader’s yellow jersey

Although the stage ended in a sprint, the parcours packed in over 2,100 meters of climbing in under 130 kilometers. All three categorized climbs were located in the second half of the stage, too.

Nonetheless, Einhorn – the team’s designated leader for the stage – was untroubled throughout. The expected high Rwandan temperatures and humidity also failed to slow him down.

“The last 50 kilometers were quite hilly,” he adds. “All of the race was hilly, but the last 50 kilometers featured the bigger climbs. We came here with a clear mind that I could pass these climbs and my teammates really supported this idea.

“The final 10 kilometers featured smaller climbs, but it was still hilly. There were a lot of attacks – my teammates Moritz, Chris, and Joe did a really great job to keep it all together for the final kilometer where I was sitting in a good position.

“Chris was wonderful – he closed down the breakaway in the final kilometers, giving me the chance to win. He also helped me to my first victory in the Tour of Slovakia, now, he’s done it for me again. Amazing!

“Just after the last corner, it was really fast downhill into the finish. With 300 meters to go, I went and nobody could pass, so I’m really happy I won.”

Sports Director Ruben Plaza praised Einhorn for coming to Rwanda prepared to tackle the climbs. “I always tell sprinters they must find a way over the climbs so they can reap the rewards at the end,” he says. “Itamar’s coming from a high-altitude camp that evidently did him a lot of good. His main rivals couldn’t survive the climbs, leaving the field open for Itamar. That’s the way.”

The symbolism of his win was not lost on anybody. Einhorn proudly showcased the Israeli champion’s jersey in a country that also has painful memories of previous atrocities.

“I’m really happy to represent and show the jersey in a good way,” he adds. “And, in the end, it can show that a normal world can exist. You can see it here with the Rwandan people. We can live next to each other, just with better decisions.”