The 2016 cycling season has really gotten underway.
From Sunday, July 17 through Saturday, July 30, KRD will compete in the toughest race of their first year as a professional team - the Tour of Qinghai Lake, on the Tibetan plateau, 3200 m above sea level. This is a UCI 2.HC race, which for the uninitiated, is one grade below 2.UWT that includes the Tour de France and Giro D'Italia. 13 days of high-altitude rarefied air racing with only one rest day.
In Kenya, the KRD continental guys were back to impart what they had learnt in Australia to the younger riders in the developmental programme.
They competed in 2 races.
Farmer’s Choice 60km
The 4 KRD guys - Gichora, Mwangi, Suleiman and Geoff - rode aggressively, launching repeated attacks. Suleiman broke clear at about halfway. The KR Iten and Nakuru boys did some turns and Suleiman was brought back with about 10km to go.
The race came down to a sprint. Salim Kipkemboi, the lad who used to work as a firewood hauler when we met him down in the valley when he was still a child, won from Karaya then Suleiman. Mwangi 4th, Josphat 5th.
The 4 KRD group were clearly unhappy. Kenyan Riders Iten were delighted. Whatever the outcome, the KRD continental guys made it a real race, and forced the rest of the guys in Kenya to lift their game…which is pretty much the whole point of the project.
Great Rift Valley Challenge 100 km
This race had more than 2000m of climbing in it, and has developed a reputation as the toughest race in Kenya. KRD dominated this race. Geoff Langat attacked on a descent, opening a 4 minute gap that was never closed. The won the race handily. Gichora won the KOM points, and ultimately finished 3rd. On the final climb, Suleiman rode off the front of the peloton and closed within a minute of Geoff.
So KRD finished 1, 2, 3. Geoff, Suleiman, Gichora.
The overarching mission of the KRD guys was to spread the culture of cycling in Kenya. They did this like missionaries. They spent time chatting to the younger guys, and went on training rides with them. They always wore their blue KRD kit and they spent some time with Kinjah’s group in Kikuyu when they went to apply for Chinese visas.
They have been wonderful ambassadors for the team. They weren’t happy with the Farmer’s Choice race but they completely dominated the Great Rift Valley Challenge and showed that they are a class above the rest at the moment, which we hope makes them aspirational role models.
And back in Australia
Sammy and Ayub had their own adventures. It’s been a pretty cold and unfamiliar winter for our intrepid sojourners.
They went with Morgz and Nick Miller to the Gold Coast to participate in the QRTS 2-day race in Warwick, the highlight was which was a blitzkrieg team time trial where the 4 of them rode on their road bikes and normal wheels to a 4th place, only 30s behind the winning team.
A week later, Sammy, Ayub, and Morgz won the team classification VRS Eildon race.
And finally, summing up an eventful month, the KRD team are off to their biggest race of the season, the UCI 2HC Tour of Qing Hai Lake, where they’ll meet Word Tour and ProConti teams.
The season is truly underway, and the races are afoot! Exciting times indeed.
Photos by Tonny Githinji and Nicholas Leong