A day before his 21st birthday, IPT rider Joe Blackmore produced a ride worthy of early celebrations in the Tour du Rwanda’s fifth stage individual time trial.

Blackmore finished third in the 13-kilometer uphill test between Musanze and Kinigi to move into second on GC, just two seconds behind race leader William Lecerf (SQD).

IPT still has two cards to play in the race for overall victory, as the British rider’s Academy teammate Moritz Kretschy finished seventh on the day. He moves up to sixth overall, 26 seconds in arrears. Only 10 riders sit within a minute of the race lead but, perhaps crucially, IPT is the sole team with two within 30 seconds of the yellow jersey.

“I felt pretty good today,” says Blackmore. “I’m just happy I could do a good ride. I’m a level higher than I was here last year, which is promising for the GC.

“It’s open, and with some shorter stages and a circuit finish on the final day, it feels like anything can still happen.”

Held along a challenging course that featured nearly 500 meters despite its modest distance, arguably the biggest question of the day was not whether or not Blackmore and Kretschy could stay in the GC mix, but which of their Factor bikes would be best for the stage. In the end, both opted for the HANZŌ time trial bike, a decision that the British rider felt paid off.

Blackmore adds: “With the TT bike I could get up to a higher speed on the flat bits a bit more easily and recover a bit more, before pushing on the steeper bits.”

In one notable quirk, despite this being a time trial, Blackmore was presented with the Breakaway of the Day jersey after the stage.

Friday’s sixth stage finishes atop Mont Kigali, which sits to the south west of the country’s capital. Blackmore has experience of the climb from last year’s race, in which he competed for a Great Britain national squad.