What a week it has been for IPT Academy rider Joe Blackmore: he turned 21 on Friday, the same day he moved into the Tour de Rwanda race lead, and on Sunday he sealed the stage win and overall victory in the eight-day event.

Blackmore launched a blistering attack in the final kilometers to solo to the win in Kigali, which incorporated parts of the route to be used in next year’s UCI Road World Championships, with enough time to celebrate in style with a wheelie across the line.

The British rider had never previously won a UCI race, nor led any part of one. He adds two stage victories and the GC triumph to a flourishing palmarès that already includes national off-road titles.

“Winning in yellow is amazing,” says Blackmore. “It means a lot. First race for Israel – Premier Tech. I did this race last year, sixth on GC, and to come back a year later and win is great.

“It’s special. To achieve such a victory at the age of 21 is huge for me.”

Despite a frantic start to the 73.6-kilometer stage, IPT’s five riders rarely looked flustered. Guy Sagiv monitored the early breaks, before two-time stage winner this week Itamar Einhorn, Chris Froome, and Moritz Kretschy ensured that a four-rider group was kept in check.

The race came back together again on Mont Kigali, climbed today from its tougher side, which prompted a handful of attacks from Blackmore’s nearest GC rivals.

He adds: “Yeah, Itamar helped on the lead-out into the climb, and Chris rode a good tempo. [There were] some attacks on the steep bit, where I got distanced a bit, but I could find my way back to the front. It was great to have the experience of Chris and the team.”

Undeterred, Blackmore then used the cobbled climb of the Mur de Kigali, with around 8.5 kilometers remaining, to launch his stage-winning move.

“The cobbled climbs really suit me,” he says. “I thought they made me suffer on the big climb, so I found some energy over the top of the cobbled climb, and I made them suffer.

“I just put my head down, went full gas, and didn’t think too much. It was good!”

Despite working tirelessly for his teammate over the past two stages, Kretschy finished the stage in 23rd, which was enough for him to place ninth on GC. Ilkhan Dostiyev (AQD) and Jhonatan Restrepo (PRT) completed the podium.

IPT owner Sylvan Adams sent words of congratulations to Blackmore and the rest of the team in Africa.

He says: “I’m extremely proud to have won the Tour of Rwanda, the most important and highest level bicycle race on the continent of Africa. The win has special importance given the close relationship between my Israel – Premier Tech team and the people of Rwanda. We inaugurated our “Field of Dreams” project just one year ago, and it is being used by thousands of Rwandan cyclists.

“This, of course, also reflects on the entire country of Israel, as we are seen as true friends. At this difficult moment, I think this has strategic significance for Israel, as we need friends around the world. When Joe Blackmore won, our team was cheered as if a Rwandan had won. Due to our image here, we are truly a home team.

“Last year, I told President Kagame that we would come back and win this race, and he told me that he would cheer for us. As Rwanda gears up to host the cycling World Championships in 2025, we will return to visit our friends in Africa.”

Photos: Tour du Rwanda